Whenever I go back home over a break and I mention that I write for the sports section of The Tech, people always ask me questions like, “Does MIT have any good athletes?” and “Do the teams ever win games?”
It seems as though people refuse to believe that any individual can excel in both physical and mental feats. In a country where highly intelligent people are reduced to super-nerds in The Big Bang Theory, and athletes are reduced to Arrested Development’s hilariously dumb “Steve Holt!” it’s no wonder people assume that those who are highly talented at one thing must be completely devoid of other abilities. Thus, it is unfathomable that anyone at a “nerd school” like MIT would be able to succeed at anything other than rocket science or brain surgery.
Well, I hate to disappoint all the non-believers, but MIT does have good athletes. In fact, we have some of the best athletes in the country. In 2012 alone, we saw the men’s basketball team make an appearance in the NCAA Division III final four, the football team upset the team with the longest winning streak in Division III, sent a swimmer to the U.S. Olympic trials, and very nearly sent two weightlifters to the 2012 Olympics. That’s just a few of the many athletic accomplishments of MIT students in 2012. So much for a “nerd school!”
The year got off to a great start when the men’s basketball team, led by center Noel Hollingsworth ‘12, and point guard Mitchell H. Kates ‘13, lost only two games during the regular season (one of them was an early season tune-up against Harvard). They then won the NEWMAC championship for the third time in four years, and qualified for the NCAA Division III tournament for the fourth year in a row. The team handily won their first four games in the tournament and advanced all the way to the final four before falling to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Many other varsity teams competed well, especially at the conference level. Both the men and women’s tennis teams won NEWMAC championships, and women’s team players Lauren C. Quisenberry ‘14 and Vynnie J. Kong ‘15 were ranked 13th and 25th in the northeast region, respectively. Both the men and women’s track and field teams won NEWMAC championships, and the women’s team also won the New England Division III championship.
The MIT men and women’s swimming and diving teams each won NEWMAC titles, and the men’s team placed 4th overall the NCAA Division III tournament while the women placed 8th overall. As mentioned earlier, men’s swimmer Wyatt L. Ubellacker ’13, an All-American and Academic All-American, became the first swimmer in MIT history to qualify for the Olympic trials, barely missing the cut for the semi-finals of the 50-meter freestyle, and placing 21st out of 167 competitors.
The women’s volleyball team also won a NEWMAC championship (noticing a trend here?), as did the women’s field hockey team who captured their third title in four years. Particularly noteworthy for the women’s field hockey team was the career of senior Molly E. McShane ’13, who was voted the New England East Region Player of the Year for the second year in a row, and who became the first field hockey player in MIT history to receive All-American accolades all four years. To top it off she’s also an Academic All-American.
The men’s cross country team won the NEWMAC championship for the 15th (yes, you read that right) year in a row, which is every year since the conference was formed in 1998. The women’s cross country team also won a NEWMAC title, then went on to win the New England Division III championship, and placed 6th overall in the National Championship.
The men’s soccer team won the NEWMAC title, while the women’s soccer team advanced to the third round of the NCAA Division III tournament before losing to the team that eventually won the National Championship.
In addition to the domination of our varsity sports, several club teams had exceptional performances in 2012.
The MIT men’s hockey team won their second Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association (NECHA) Cup in a row, the MIT Sport Taekwondo Club won the ECTC cup and placed second at nationals, and the MIT Cycling Club won the USA Cycling Collegiate Track Division II National Championship.
Arguably the most impressive feat of any MIT team sport in 2012 came when gymnasts Zara K. Karuman ’13, Julia Sharpe ’09, and Lindsay M. Sanneman ‘14 placed 1st, 2nd, and 6th, respectively, in the NAIGC all-around competition and vaulted (pun fully intended) the women’s gymnastics club to their second national championship in a row, beating out huge state schools like Penn State and Texas A&M. It may not have been an NCAA title, but remind me again why this team lost its varsity status?
Along with MIT varsity and MIT club team accomplishments, there are athletes who compete outside of MIT who also deserve acknowledgement. The first two are Gwendolyn A. Sisto G and Michael A. Nackoul ’13, both of whom are weightlifters who have represented team USA at World and Junior World competitions over the past few years. Both have their sights set on competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Finally, I would like to acknowledge Colleen T. Rock ’14, who has been a member of the US Women’s National Sled Hockey Team for the past eight years.
Before you start to think that all this athletic success must come at the expense of academic success, you should know that MIT is the all-time Division III leader in producing Academic All-Americans (188), and is third across all of NCAA. This year, three members of the MIT football team, the squad that upset one of the top teams in Division III, proved that you don’t have to choose between brains and brawn. Ethan E. Peterson ‘13, Russell A. Spivak ‘13, and Rhys D. Borchert ‘14 were all named Academic All-Americans, with GPAs of 4.8, 4.8, and 4.9, respectively. Those are just three of the many MIT students who earned Academic All-American accolades in 2012.
Many more MIT athletes are named Academic All-Conference, including 138 this past season, an achievement that requires a GPA above 4.35. Additionally, Kyle Hannon ’13 and Lauren Kuntz ’13, on the men’s and women’s track and field teams, were each awarded an NCAA Elite 89 Award, which is given to the student-athlete with the highest GPA at a particular national championship event. Lastly, the men’s water polo team was recognized this year for having the highest average GPA in NCAA.
For a school its size that doesn’t give out athletic scholarships, MIT is very successful in athletics across the board. While MIT may not compete at the highest level of competition in every sport, it also has a student body that is one-tenth the size of many Division I schools. That said, the ability for so many MIT athletes to excel within their competition brackets while coping with the unparalleled stress of academics at MIT, is a testament to their hard work and determination. It goes to show that it is entirely possible for individuals to succeed both in the classroom and on the field as long as they are prepared to put in the necessary effort. Who would’ve thought?
Before I step off of my soapbox, I would like to recognize the many other excellent student-athletes who I was not able to mention by name in this article, as well as the other varsity and club teams that accomplished great things in 2012. If I were to list all of the All-Americans, All-Conference, Players-of-the-week, and Academic All-Americans at MIT, as well as summarize all of the big wins for every varsity and club team in 2012, this article would probably take up the entire year in review. That said, if you know anyone who falls into one of these categories please congratulations them, and continue to show them the same support in this new year. And remember to tell them to email The Tech the next time they have a big moment so that we don’t overlook them. Go Engineers and good luck to all MIT student-athletes in 2013!