Profiles in Dedication: Athletes at MIT

874 profiles 1
Amy R. Magnuson ’10 at the New England Division III women’s track and field championship, May 5–6.
Omari Stephens—The Tech
875 profiles 0
Doria M. Holbrook ’08 against Wellesley College, Nov. 14.
Brian Hemond—The Tech

To most of the world looking in, MIT is about its research. To most of its students, MIT is about the education. But for a select few, nothing gets them as excited as the athletics. The hard work and dedication of many talented student-athletes have created a strong presence for MIT in the collegiate athletic community, and their performance has helped shape a legacy that will persist beyond their graduation. These are a few of their stories.

Michael R. Allshouse ’08 — Soccer

Defender and co-captain Michael R. Allshouse ’08 capped his final season on the MIT men’s soccer team by being named to the 2007 ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America Second Team, awarded by the College Sports Information Directory of America (CoSIDA).

Allshouse helped MIT reach a 9-5-2 record, including strong conference wins over Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Babson College. The latter victory was one of the most memorable moments of the season for Allshouse and the team.

“On the road we fought them all game long and won in overtime 1-0,” Allshouse said. “It really showed how far we had come since last year when we lost to them twice 5-0.”

The victory helped give confidence to a team that was previous winless against opponents in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, and turned out to be the second win of a five-game unbeaten streak to conclude the regular season.

This season was also interesting as it marked the first year for head coach Milton Gooding, who took over for longtime coach Walter A. Alessi. Gooding brings a tradition of winning to MIT, although as Allshouse explained, “there were times when things got interesting. Coach was trying to figure out how MIT worked and we tried to figure out how he worked.”

In his four years with the team, Allshouse developed greatly as a player, which he attributes to both confidence in himself and trust in his teammates. Playing with many of the same teammates for three years, Allshouse was confident his teammates would do well in their roles, and “that let me focus on what I had to do,” he said.

Allshouse was also one of the 13 members of the team selected to the 2007 NEWMAC Fall Academic All-Conference Team.

Craig M. Edwards ’08 — Swimming

Craig M. Edwards ’08 once again performed exceptionally at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships last spring, finishing fourth in his two best events, the 100-yard backstroke and the 200-yard backstroke. His performance matched his goal coming into the season, which was to make it back to nationals and perform as well as he had done in the past. Edwards finished fourth in the same two events his freshman year.

Edwards came into his final season on the MIT men’s swimming and diving team with high expectations, and the talent of the incoming freshman class helped strengthen those feelings.

Edwards led a contingent of four Engineers to the NCAA Championships last spring but was in a unique position as the only veteran of the group. Joining Edwards were three freshmen — Rastislaz Racz ’10, Jeffrey Y. Zhou ’10, and Luke R. Cummings ’10. “It was amazing to witness both the skill and potential of our freshmen,” Edwards said.

Edwards’s head coach Dawn B. Gerken was proud of his performance at nationals, but his All-American finish was not the only impressive result of the championships. “More important, he’s been a role model for the three freshmen,” said Gerken at nationals. “I can’t say enough about how important his presence has been.”

Edwards also anchored the team in both the 200-yard and 400-yard medley relays, where their strong performances propelled MIT to an 11th place finish in the NCAA Championships.

Edward’s biggest challenge last year was mentally and physically not knowing how he would perform after being away for the previous season. “I didn’t know what sort of shape I’d be in by championships, or if I’d be able to perform as well as I had in the past,” Edwards said.

This challenge helped drive Edwards to bring himself back into fighting shape for national competition. A self-described fierce competitor, Edwards hates to lose. His success also comes from his supportive coaches, without whom all his success would have been very hard if not impossible to come by, he said.

Doria M. Holbrook ’08 — Diving

Doria M. Holbrook ’08 continued to impress this season as one of the nation’s premier divers, winning the NCAA Division III three-meter diving championship for the second time. Holbrook added to that result with a second place finish in the one-meter diving competition, elevating MIT to 20th place in the NCAA Championships.

Holbrook was named to the CoSIDA/ESPN the Magazine Academic All-American Second Team, adding on to a slew of awards she won this season including NEWMAC Diver of the Year. Her performance at the NEWMAC Championship was inspiring, as not only did she shatter Institute records in both the one- and three-meter competitions, she also set new NEWMAC records in both those events.

While winning the national championship is not new territory for Holbrook, the scenario was a little different this time around. Imagine going to practice everyday and training alongside your closest competition. For Doria M. Holbrook ’08, this scenario was a reality. Last season, the Tufts diving team, including Kendall Swett who narrowly edged Holbrook for the three-meter diving crown at the 2006 NCAA Championships, began practicing at MIT, sharing both the same pool and the same coach.

“It was very hard at first, it kind of felt like someone was on my turf,” Holbrook said. But the tension quickly gave way, as the two helped each other become stronger competitors and grew as friends. “Kendall really taught me how to execute every single day. I got better at competing because I was focused at all times.”

Now the two consider themselves competitors, teammates, and also friends. “The different aspects of our lives take different roles at different times, and it’s all worked out for the better,” Holbrook said.

Holbrook’s junior year was not absent of adversity. She missed the first half of the season with a herniated disc, which changed her focus from trying to win to just trying to be competitive. It also let her appreciate where she was with the sport, and helped her develop as a good teammate, captain, and role model for the team.

This development was also aided by her Alpha Chi Omega sorority sisters, whose unconditional support was extremely motivating for her, she said.

This season, Holbrook looks to qualify for the U.S.A. Spring National Championships, where a strong showing would win her a spot to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

Amy R. Magnuson ’10 — Track and Field

The women’s track and field team had one of its best seasons in 2007, setting Institute records in many events en route to its first ever NEWMAC Championship and highest ever finish at the New England Intercollegiate Amateur Athletic Association’s Outdoor Track and Field Championship.

Part of this success can be attributed to the arrival of Amy R. Magnuson ’10, who performed well in her rookie season. After a season setting numerous Institute records, including in the 100-meter hurdles and long jump, Magnuson earned a second place finish in the 100-meter hurdles at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

The finish made Magnuson the third All-American in the program’s history. In addition to Magnuson, Aline Thomas ’08 and Chi-Fong Wang ’07 also qualified for the NCAA Championships, elevating the program to one of the strongest Division III programs in New England.

Magnuson’s breakout season did not come easily though, as she had to deal with a calf injury that kept coming up. “Coach [Fletcher A. Brooks] was very supportive … and the support of my teammates helped a lot. I couldn’t have gone as far without them,” Magnuson said.

A year earlier, Magnuson faced the same decision that many similar student-athletes face every year: where to attend college. For Magnuson, “my education was most important. To me it’s not just about athletics.”

Having a solid program certainly doesn’t hurt though. Before deciding to come to MIT, Magnuson talked with Brooks about the track and field team. A year later in reflection, she is “pleasantly surprised about how good the program is, given that it’s Division III,” Magnuson said. “It’s been challenging and a lot of work.”

As the 2008 season is now underway, Magnuson looks to improve her times and help the team improve overall. Given last year’s strong performance, achieving that will certainly be no easy feat, but Magnuson is “looking forward to the challenge.”

Amanda J. Morris ’08 — Volleyball

Amanda J. Morris ’08 is certainly no stranger to success, but ask her what she remembers most from last season, and it won’t be her team’s 3-2 victory over Wellesley College at home to get to the NCAA Division III Sweet 16.

“Moments when I saw my teammates mature,” she answered. “Especially when I saw the freshmen suddenly grasp a new skill, or games when the sophomores impressed me with smart choices.”

Morris finished her four years as a member of the women’s volleyball team by being named to the CoSIDA/ESPN the Magazine Academic All-American First Team, becoming the first player in the program’s history to do so. Morris was also named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American Third Team, the program’s first such winner since 1984.

While the team fell a few victories short of reaching its goal of the NCAA Final Four, Morris still believes the team “achieved the spirit of our mission.” This season was also special for the team, as MIT got to host the New England Regionals of the NCAA Tournament. “Playing in the NCAA tournament was one of my proudest moments. … It was also a lot of pressure because I knew that if we lost, I would not be able to wear my jersey the next day,” since this was her final year of competition.

On a personal level, Morris hoped to improve on her setting and leadership this season. While the former is much more easily defined (Morris led NEWMAC with 1,385 assists this season), her leadership was evident in her relationships with the younger players. When considering what has helped her develop the most as a player, Morris attributes her growth in leadership and skills to the coaching staff. She also cites the different personalities and strengths of her teammates as helping her to become more confident and dynamic.

One particular challenge for Morris this year was developing her defense, as she had the opportunity to play more on the front line. Learning how to block effectively and transition into setting was a challenge for her, but she still had fun with it. “Our assistant coach Charles [I. Morton G] was so supportive that he and I made a fun bargain involving candy,” Morris said. “The extra incentive certainly helped me improve, but let’s just say I still owe him a few candy bars.”

Stephen A. Morton ’10 — Track and Field

As a freshman, Stephen A. Morton ’10 had an immediate impact on the men’s track and field team, helping to lead the team to its seventh straight NEWMAC Championship. Morton became the second rookie in the conference’s history to earn the honor of NEWMAC Male Athlete of the Year, an award that was rightly justified given his performance throughout the season.

Both a talented sprinter and jumper, Morton won the 200-meter dash, long jump, triple jump, and as anchor, the 4x100-meter relay at the NEWMAC Championships. He also placed third in the 100-meter dash.

Winning at NEWMACs was one of Morton’s most memorable moments of the season, but he didn’t stop there. Morton did well at the New England Division III Championships, where his time of 10.89 seconds in the 100-meter dash was good enough for fourth place. Morton also finished fifth in the long jump, all while facing hamstring problems that came up throughout the season.

Morton credits much of his development as an athlete to his coaches here at MIT. “I was real raw when I got here, but they helped me develop and get my technique down,” Morton said.

His teammates were also an integral part of the learning process. “Everybody on the team is teaching you all the time. When the upperclassmen notice something wrong on your technique, they can explain it well,” Morton said. The team members also kept each other motivated by creating their own cheering sections for different events.

Despite being recruited by several Division I schools, including a few Ivy League universities, Morton chose MIT for a number of reasons. “The closeness of our team, the excitement around Boston, being able to compete with talented people from all over New England” were all major draws for the Kentucky-grown Morton, he said.

Looking forward to the upcoming season, Morton hopes to improve upon his times and be competitive at nationals. He also looks forward to helping his team be competitive in the Division III New England Championships.

Diana Nee ’07 — Pistol

MIT continued its dominance in pistol in 2007, led by a student who coach Will Hart Jr. calls one of “the most skilled shooters in the history of the program.” Diana Nee ’07 was selected as a National Rifle Association First Team All-American in standard pistol, air pistol, and sport pistol, leading MIT to its second national title in three years.

Coming into this year, the team made both individual and collective goals, the latter of which was clearly achieved by winning the national championship. Nee described the victory as “definitely one of the most rewarding events in my college career.”

Despite having to reduce their training time dramatically during the fall due to range renovations, the season was still a success. Key victories included wins over the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, the U.S. Military Academy, and the U.S. Naval Academy. The win over the Naval Academy was extra special for the Engineers, as they set a new range record with their aggregate score.

Nee credits her coach, Hart, as a main reason for her success. “He has been instrumental in supporting me through both my pistol career and my MIT experience,” Nee said.

Though Nee graduated from MIT in the spring, she has continued to pursue competitive shooting and also helps as an assistant coach. In addition, she has been training for individual competition in the Olympics.

Praveen Pamidimukkala ’08 — Volleyball

Praveen Pamidimukkala ’08 had a dominating season on the men’s volleyball team as he became MIT’s all-time kill leader. His performance earned him the honor of North East Collegiate Volleyball Association’s Player of the Year, and he was named to the NECVA All-Conference First Team. In addition to his skills on the court, Pamidimukkala’s academics earned him a place on the CoSIDA/ESPN the Magazine Academic All-American First Team.

The highlight of the year for the outside hitter came in a match against New England Division rivals Rivier College, who had won the division for the past several years. After losing T. Scott Pollom ’09 due to injury the week before, Stephen D. Ray ’08 filled in nicely and helped carry MIT to a 3-1 victory. The win helped MIT finish the regular season undefeated in divisional play to win the New England Division of NECVA.

One of the distinguishing qualities for Pamidimukkala and the team was their youth, as there were no seniors on the team. The role of co-captain was fulfilling for Pamidimukkala though. “It helped me learn how different people react to situations in different ways.”

When he first came to MIT, Pamidimukkala was “amazed at how well the entire coaching staff knew the game,” citing them as the main reason for his success and growth.

Working with his teammates has also been a main component of Pamidimukkala’s recent development, as now he says he’s at the point where most of his obstacles are mental, which includes getting the team ready to begin matches strong and focused.

Pamidimukkala is also proud of how the team performed in close matches. He said that the program used to struggle in matches that went the distance to five games, but last season included key wins in several such matches. In particular, MIT won a tough five set match against Endicott College in the opening round of the NECVA Tournament.

In his first two years with the team, Pamidimukkala developed a strong relationship with setter Jordan X. Wan ’06, but was impressed by the way that Philip M. Rogoz ’10 stepped in and performed once Wan graduated. Pamidimukkala credits the team’s hard work ethic as the reason that they “were able to connect and gel together as an offense.”

As Pamidimukkala enters his final season of play, he hopes to help his team win the NECVA Championship and earn a birth in the NCAA Final Four. “Volleyball is what I came to MIT to do,” Pamidimukkala said. “It’s been a hell of a ride, one of the best experiences of my life.”

Julia C. Zimmerman ’09 — Gymnastics

Julia C. Zimmerman ’09 did last season what no other MIT gymnast has done in the past: she qualified for the NCAA Division I Northeast Regional Championships. Not only did she qualify, Zimmerman performed well, placing 11th overall in the all-around competition.

Zimmerman qualified for the Division I Regional competition after taking the title of National Collegiate Gymnastics Association All-Around Champion, becoming the second MIT woman gymnast ever to do so. Her performance led her to be named NCAA Division III Northeast Region Gymnast of the Year along with East Coast Athletic Conference Gymnast of the Year.

In looking forward to this upcoming season, Zimmerman says that she hopes to help the team make nationals.

Before coming to MIT, Zimmerman trained for 25–30 hours a week in club gymnastics. In her three years of collegiate competition, her training has been reduced to only around 10 hours a week. The change has had a beneficial effect on Zimmerman, she said, as it has allowed her to stay healthier.

“Before I came here I was getting injured left and right,” she said. These injuries included shoulder surgery in high school, along with a bone chip in her neck, from which she has now fully recovered.

The size of the team has also helped Zimmerman, as “since there’s fewer of us, only three to four people per event, we can learn a lot more in the time we have,” she said.

Zimmerman credits being a part of a close-knit team as a reason that she has become a better, more consistent competitor. “The pressure’s not just for you to do well, but to do well for the team.”

Zimmerman, who holds several Institute records including best all-around score, also was named to the CoSIDA/ESPN the Magazine Academic All-American First Team.