MIT Engineers Victory Without Key Athletes

January 20, 2018

Both the Men's and Women's Track & Field teams at MIT completed their regular season schedule undefeated by winning a five-way competition on Saturday at Bowdoin College in the Bowdoin Invitational II.  Attending teams other than MIT and Bowdoin were Merrimack (DII), Tufts and Southern Maine.

Scoring meets in the sport of collegiate track and field are becoming more and more rare.  Teams and programs that try and win those meets are even more rare. There are likely many contributing factors.  Some programs simply do not have the coaching and or facility resources to develop full teams.  Winning regular season meets does nothing to advance a team to any form of championships, so some prefer to focus on individual performances in the competitive environment for that individual.  Some may not want to invest the time it takes to recruit and develop athletes for 21 different events.  The easier path is to focus on the few athletes a program may have who can attain the performance standards for the various championships.  In other words, choosing the individual versus the team aspect of the sport.  MIT is a program whose goals are to try to win the New England Division III Championship, both indoors and outdoors every year, as well as to place as high in the team scoring as possible at the NCAA Division III Championship, both indoor and outdoor.  Winning championships when a team has a large majority of the talent is not too difficult.  However, most championships are won, particularly at the conference and regional level by teams that know how to win.  Teams made up of individuals who will do whatever it takes to win for their teammates because they know their teammates will do the same will be the most difficult to beat.  That is what MIT strives for and this meet would be great practice at the effort necessary to pull out a win.

MIT entered this meet missing many top athletes who are a week or two away from being competition ready.  This would be a great opportunity to see if the less experienced would step-up and do their part to help win the meet.  For this meet MIT's strength was in the distance events and field events for both teams.  The women were also strong in quality if not quantity in all the running events.  The men were missing their short sprinters and are having a weak year in the normally strong longer sprints.

The scoring for the meet would be six in each event at 10-8-6-4-2-1. In the early field events, Tech built up a nice lead by dominating with spectacular performances.  Jon Fakkema '19 led a 1-3-5 finish in the Weight Throw, winning with a toss of 53-5.  Albert Menio '20 and Cody Bratten '18 threw personal bests at 50-0 3/4 and 47-8 1/2 respectively.

In the Pole Vault, Scott Cameron '19 won at 14-11, and was supported with teammates placing 3-4-5-6 with Liam Ackerman '21 and Bobby Upton '20 both jumping 14-5 1/4 and Raja Rajcic '20 and Max Hardy '21 both clearing 13-11 1/4.

The Triple Jump was not as strong, but MIT held their won with 10 points as Billy Ruschel '18 jumped 48-2 1/2 for second and Jason Villanueva '19 jumped 45-4 for fifth.  At this point Tech had a nice lead at 51 points to 10 for Tufts, their primary concern for the team victory.

To the track, the Mile Run was first up and MIT had a strong contingent, although there was some fatigue entering the meet as the Engineers are in a very high volume of work and intensity at this point of the season.  Aidan Gilson '19 shook the fatigue off, took the lead after the halfway mark, and needed a 62 final quarter to pull away with a 4:16.51 victory.  Josh Rosenkranz '19 dropped down from his normal distance events and added a third place with a personal best of 4:20.46.  At 67 to 14 this was MIT's maximum lead.

Tufts began chipping away at the lead as the shorter events were competed.  First, the 60HH gave them a first and fifth for 12 points.  Chris Sweeney '18 competed well, taking second in a season best 8.46, just .05 out of first place.

Now for the long sprints; in the 400, Benton Wilson '21 took on the 400 for the first time this season.  He ran a perfect first lap, earning the break with a 23.3 first 200. Entering the final turn he was tripped from behind, causing him to lose control and technique.  He recovered to manage a sixth place and Tufts was unable to score.  Due to a couple of injuries, MIT only had one 600 runner and Ellery Rajagopal '21 was that runner.  He ran an excellent race to claim third in 1:27.58.  Tufts added 14 points to their total as they took first and fourth.

The 60 Meter Dash was next and Tech was missing their top two short sprinters as one was sick and the other did not take care of a minor injury that should have had him competing this weekend.  Tufts scored 18 points with a 1-3-5 finish to move within 24 points of the Engineers.

The remaining field events were finishing up around this time.  The final three did not go as well as the first three, but still went in the Engineer's favor.  The High Jump went the best for the Engineers.  Alec Reduker '20 won the event, clearing 6-8.  Chris Washington '20 earned third at 6-4 and Steven Speck '20 tied for sixth at 6-2.  In the Shot Put, Fakkema came through again with a third place 47-2 1/4 PR.  Cody Bratten '18 added a sixth at 43-10 as he tries to get back to his 45' indoor mark last year and 48' outdoor mark.  The final field event, the Long Jump did not go as planned.  Tufts was able to win the event with only a 22-2 1/2 performance. Ruschel placed second at 21-6 1/4 and Mac Gregg '21 took fourth at 21-3 1/2.  In the three events MIT outscored Tufts 35 1/2 to 28, making the score 117.5 to 86.

In the 800 and 1000 Tufts scored 22 points while MIT garnered eight.  In the 800, both Simon Alford '20 and Gilson had to race out of the slow section due to slower entry times although they were fully capable of racing with the fast section.  Nevertheless, they placed 1-2 in the slow section, Simon earning fourth overall in 1:58.83 and Gilson sixth in 1:59.85.  In the 1000 Alex Knapp '19 was fifth in 2:35.19 while Kent Slaney '21 doubled back from the Mile to place sixth in 2:36.11.  Tufts was only down by 21.5 points, 125.5 to 104.

With only the 200 left before the distance events and the two relays (4x400 Relay and 4x800 Relay), things looked safe.  Without All America, Tre Albritten '18, who was out with sickness, Wilson was the lone representative and he was able to place sixth in 23.08.  Tufts won the event for 10 more points, cutting the margin to 12.5 points, the closest it would get.

Dennis Maloney '19 ran 8:32.94 from the front only to get out-kicked in the 3K.  Ben Freed '18 and Billy Woltz '20 took fourth and fifth to give MIT 14 points while Tufts was unable to score.  The 5K brought similar results.  David Walter '18 and Alex Knoedler '18 ran excellent races, trading off the lead until the end when a Bowdoin runner took the lead.  Walter came back to kick to the victory in 15:17.85.  Knoedler and Nicholas Waltman '18 placed third and fourth to clinch the team victory as Tufts was only able to place fifth.

In the 4x400, MIT put mostly middle-distance runners in, which worked well as the quartet of Ken Acquah '20 (54.0), Gilson (52.4), Slaney (52.8) and Rajagopal (53.7) placed fourth.  The 4x800, anchored by Alford in 1:56.5, came from behind to win in 8:00.24. Brian Bates '20 (2:02.0), Knapp (2:02.1) and Dylan Doblar '21 (1:59.4) were the contributing first three legs.

The final score was MIT 174.5, Tufts 132, Bowdoin 100, Merrimack 88 and USM 61.5. 

The women were missing just as many, if not more stars, but had little problem with the competition, winning 212 to 127 for Tufts, 102 for Bowdoin, 78 for USM and 59 for Merrimack.

The star for MIT was Margaret Redfield '21 who set a freshman record in the High Jump, clearing 5-4 1/2 to also win the event.  Overall, the MIT women won 11 of the 17 events they competed in.

The most dominant event was the Pole Vault where the Engineers claimed 19 points led by Jacqueline Ahrens '21, who cleared 11-11 3/4 for the second week in succession.  Makenzie Patarino '19 took third at 11-5 3/4. Kathryn Mohr '20 was fifth at 10-6 and Madeleine Waller 'G and Lila Wine '21 tied for sixth at 10-0.

The most dominant performance was turned in by Mary Eccles '18 in the 5K.  Eccles took the pace out at 83 per 400 on the 200 meter flat track.  Hitting 1600 splits of 5:29, 5:32 and then 5:37 as she tired a bit at the end of the race, although she closed in 40 seconds for a 17:18.04, the eighth fastest time in the country for Division III.  MIT also took fourth and fifth respectively with Emily Niu '21 and Emily Freel '21.

The 3K was also a dominant event for Tech.  Megan McCandless '20 is working her way back to top form, taking the 3K start to finish in 10:20.19.  She was followed by Jenna Melanson '20 taking third in 10:27.38 and Bailee Margolis '19 claiming fourth in 10:34.86.

In addition to Redfield taking the High Jump victory, her teammates, Liana Reilly '21 took third at 5-0 1/2 and Kailyn Bryk '21 placed fifth, clearing 4-8 3/4.

Hannah Chen '18 scored the most points for the team, totaling 28 as she won both the 60HH (9.29) and the 400 (59.14) and then took second in the 200 (26.37).  Adding points in those events were Kristen Frombach '19, placing fourth in the 400, and Michelle Menkiti '20 who won the 200 out of lane three in 26.31.  Menkiti also placed fourth in the 60 in 8.08 after having run a season best 8.07 in the trials.

Ariela Slutsky '18 and Folusho Jebutu '20 placed 1-2 in the Weight Throw.  Slutsky won in 53-1 1/2 while Jebutu threw 44-3 1/2.  Elise McCormack-Kuhman '20 took sixth in the event for Tech.  Coming back in the Shot Put, Slutsky, who has an injured thumb, placed fourth, throwing 35-10 3/4 from the power position.

Elizabeth Weeks '21 had a breakthrough meet, first  earning second place in the Triple Jump with a 36-6 1/4 leap and then jumped 16-5 in the Long Jump to pick up sixth place.  Also in those events Jasmine Jin '20 placed third in the Triple with a 35-9 1/2 leap and then took fifth in the Long Jump at 16-6 1/2.  Haley Strouf '18 won the Long Jump with a season best 18-3.

In the middle-distance events MIT got the job done despite a lack of depth.  Marissa McPhillips '20 did not win an event, but ran outstanding races.  In the Mile she place third in 5:01.50 and then came back in the 1000, placing third again in 3:03.36.  Katie Williams '21 won the 800 in a come from behind victory, taking the race in 2:18.64.  Margaret Trautner '20 ran an outstanding 600, but ran out of gas in the final 100, taking second place in 1:40.72.  Skylar Brooks '20 added a fifth in 1:45.80.

MIT neglected not to run the 4x200 Relay and the 4x400 Relay as they chose to use their resources differently.  However, they did race the 4x800 Relay.  Trautner led off in a solid 2:25.3, giving Brooks the lead.  Brooks ran 2:27, losing the lead for awhile, but getting it back to hand off to Lindsey McAllister '21 in first.  McAllister lost the lead at the end, but kept it close in 2:34.5.  Williams took the baton and then took no prisoners as she moved to the front, expanding her lead as she went, bringing it home in first with a 2:21.2 anchor.

MIT has three weeks of invitationals leading up to the New England Division III Championship on February 16-17.  Next weekend some MIT runners will compete at the Boston University John Thomas Terrier Classic while most of the athletes will compete at the Tufts University Branwen Smith-King Invitational.