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Men...s Cross Country Hoping for Ninth NEWMAC Title

By Travis Johnson

A saying in the running world goes “Cross Country: Our sport is your sport’s punishment”. Some may consider running 70 to 80 miles a week punishment befitting a serious felony, but the Men’s Cross Country team considers it fall practice.

All those miles are part of a winning tradition that Coach Halston Taylor has built in his 24 years as coach. One example of the team’s success is that since it joined the NEWMAC in 1998, it has won every conference meet. Last year was no exception, and the Engineers tallied a score of 25 at the conference meet by placing all seven of their top runners within the top 13.

Last season’s second place finisher, Coast Guard, had a lot of success in the distance running track events last spring and, according to Taylor, may be favored to win this year.

“Coast Guard is often a better team than we are but we tend to run a better race when up against them,” said Taylor.

Before the conference title meet on October 28, MIT will compete six times, including at the Engineer’s cup in Franklin Park by the Forest Hills subway station.

Part of the reason MIT has been so successful in big races is Taylor’s strategy and his runners’ ability to execute. Halston sets time goals for each of his runners in the form of absolute times mile-by-mile and how far they should be behind MIT’s fastest runner.

More important than the quantitative goals are ways of “turning negative thoughts into positive thoughts and planning for distractions,” says Taylor. The ability of the mind to keep getting more out of the body is the focus of this Zen-like approach.

Besides hoping to beat Coast Guard to capture their ninth consecutive NEWMAC title, Men’s Cross Country aspires to advance to the National Tournament, which would require placing second in an extremely tough regional tournament or running well enough all season long to get an at-large bid.

The team has made nationals seven times in Taylor’s twenty-four year tenure, and he says “we have an outside chance [of making nationals this season] if we stay healthy and the team members do not doubt themselves when the time comes.”