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The MIT Men’s and Women’s Track and Field teams competed this weekend in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) and IC4A indoor track championships. For those who are unfamiliar with the sport, in track events, individuals race around an oval track, sometimes in individually painted lanes. For field events, athletes perform a variety of feats of strength like pole vaulting (running with a long, flexible pole, planting it in the ground, and launching over a bar as high as possible), the long jump and triple jump (both involving sprinting at full speed and jumping as far as possible into a pit of sand), and throwing events such as discus, hammer throw, javelin, and shot put (throwing objects of various shapes and sizes).

Indoor track has many basic characteristics of outdoor track, with a few notable exceptions. While all the field events are similar, the track events are different due to the physical properties of the indoor track — it is only 200 meters around (compared to the outdoor track’s 400-meter length) and has two banked curves in order to help the athletes negotiate the track. For the spectators, this shortened length evokes the sensation of watching professional race car driving, but with even more exciting lead changes, no pit stops, and slightly fewer explosions. In addition to individual running events, the relays are even more exciting. In these races, four members from each team compete; the first person on the team run a certain distance and passes a baton to the second person, who repeats the pattern, until the fourth person finishes the race. Athletes are not allowed to merge into the same lane and pass each other until after the first lap. Due to the precarious nature of the baton exchange and the fact that a relay team is only as fast as its slowest runner, any number of things can happen — fans are kept on the edges of their seats.

This weekend, the MIT men’s team sent middle distance runners Patrick K. Marx ’13 and Logan M. Trimble ’13 to the IC4A meet at Boston University to compete in the 800- and 1000-meter runs, respectively. They ran against athletes from dozens of other schools, including Division I programs like Boston College, University of Pittsburgh, and the Army and Naval academies. The women’s team and the remainder of the men’s team competed in the ECAC championships in New York City, where the women placed fifth out of 47 teams and the men placed 37th out of 53 teams.

Both the men and women’s pole vaulting teams performed well: Nathan E. Peterson ’12 took third overall for the men, and for the women, Karin E. Fisher ’11 took first overall, Lauren B. Kuntz ’13 took seventh, and Hazel L. Briner ’11 took eighth. The women also had a great showing in the 55 hurdles (sprinting while jumping over periodically placed metal obstacles), with Portia M. Jones ’12 placing first overall and Amy R. Magnuson G placing fourth overall. The women also had a great showing in both the individual 400 and the 4x400 relay, with the women taking first place overall in the relay by a margin of 0.004 second.

Many Track and Field team members are nationally ranked in Division III and hope to compete next weekend at the NCAA Division III tournament in Columbus, Ohio. Be sure to cheer them on as they prepare for what is no doubt the most important indoor meet of the season.