Men’s Track & Field wins twelfth NEWMAC title

Clutch finishes give Engineers narrow comeback victory over Williams, 112-110

Twenty-four teams traveled to Springfield, Mass. last Saturday to compete in the New England Track and Field Division III Championship. MIT arrived as one of the two heavy favorites, the other being Williams College. Based on past results and expectations, MIT and Williams seemed to be evenly matched. As Coach Halston W. Taylor said aptly in the pre-meet meeting, “It’s going to come down to who wants it more.” And it did.

The meet began with the pentathlon. Williams took the top two spots and a commanding lead on the field, but the Engineers fought back. Kenneth B. Cooper ’13 placed fifth in the 35-pound weight throw. The sprinters fared well in the trials, with Babajide Akinronbi ’14 and Joshua D. Duncavage ’13 advancing to the finals in the 55-meter dash and Tyler S. Singer-Clark ’14 reaching the finals in the 200.

In the finals of the mile run, Kyle J. Hannon ’13 sat behind the leaders until — with 400 meters to go — he kicked into high gear, leaving the field behind and winning the event by a large margin.

The atmosphere at such a large track meet is uncertain throughout most of the day. The entire competition lasts about six hours, and multiple events are happening at all times.

Individual results in events don’t matter as much as point differentials between teams and finishes relative to expected results. Even losses can be large victories if the finish was better than expected, and victories can be disappointing if a rival overachieves. Nothing is certain. It became quickly apparent, however, that Williams was picking up points across the board, and MIT was falling behind — at one point, the difference was 74-26 in favor of Williams.

At this difficult point, some key performers stepped up. Stephen R. Serene ’12 ­— only expected to get 15th place in the 1000 — took first, adding ten points to MIT’s score. In the triple jump, Mattias S. Flander ’11 flew two feet further than he has all year, scoring fifth and edging out two competitors from Williams. In the 200, Duncavage, Akinronbi, and Singer-Clark finished third, seventh, and eighth, respectively, and Akinronbi and Duncavage went fifth and seventh in the 55.

Nathan E. Peterson ’12 won the pole vault with a jump of 14 feet and 11 inches; Cyrus Vafadari ’12 got eighth place for more points. Matthew D. Falk ’12 placed an impressive third in the high jump. Cooper came back strong in shotput for fifth. David H. Way ’13 climbed into fourth in the 600. Dawit H. Zewdie ’13, only expected to finish 15th in the 800, placed sixth. Daniel E. Harper ’12 got fifth in the 5000, gutting out a sprint finish with a Williams competitor that underscored the intensity of the rivalry. Roy A. Wedge ’14 snuck into eighth place in the same race on a late surge. In the 3000, Joseph A. Christopher ’14 finished sixth after not being expected to score. After this flurry of events, MIT was only down six points going into the final relays, trailing Williams 97-91.

The first relay was comprised of four different distance events — the 1200, the 400, the 800, and the 1600. Leading off for MIT was Captain Richard J. Prevost ’11, giving the team a leg up on the competitors. He handed off to another Captain, Nicholas W. Leonard ’11. Nick maintained the lead and gave the baton to Justin L. Bullock ’14, who ran a spectacular 800 and gave Eric R. Safai ’14 a lead closely contested by Springfield College. Safai ran an incredibly tough mile leg and pulled out the victory. Williams, feeling the pressure, only managed a fifth-place finish. This win narrowed the deficit to only one point.

The 4x400 relay was next. Williams has traditionally been a powerhouse in this event, but MIT held on and only yielded two points — a rather large victory. Williams had a three-point lead going into the final event, the 4x800 relay. Logan R. Daum ’11 lead off for the Engineers and put the team in a good position. Hannon took the baton second and gutted out his third race for the day, running a spectacular leg and taking the lead. Gilbert D. O’Neil ’13 found himself with only the team from Springfield around him, and he dueled compellingly. In the anchor leg, Zewdie and the runner from Springfield were neck-and-neck and in the lead, with Williams in a distant third.

A win in the event would give MIT 10 points — second was worth eight and third was worth six — and, coupled with a third place Williams finish, the championship. Dawit and the Springfield runner exchanged leads until the final 100 meters, when Dawit suddenly unleashed an entirely unexpected and ferocious burst of speed, leaving the Springfield runner behind. Amid deafening noise, MIT took the victory, 112 to 110.

This championship affirms MIT’s dominance in Track and Field and Cross Country. Last Indoor Track season, the men took first for the first time in seven years. In Outdoor they placed second by the narrowest of margins, and in the fall of 2010 they brought home the Cross Country victory. This Indoor victory adds another banner, but more importantly sets MIT up for the Triple Crown for the 2010–2011 school year. Never before has MIT won Cross Country, Indoor, and Outdoor Track titles in the same year. The Engineers are now two-thirds of the way there, with home-field advantage in the upcoming Outdoor championship on March 5.