Championship Qualifying Performances are the Theme for MIT


February 3, 2018

With just two weeks before the New England Division III Championships and five weeks before the NCAA Division III Championships there was a sense of urgency amongst the MIT Track & Field athletes for the former and an eye on what the fields are looking like for the latter.

Once again MIT split their squads between two meets, sending some field event athletes to Reggie Lewis for the NEICAAA Championship and the rest to the Tufts University Cupid Challenge.  The NEICAAA Championship, termed the All New Englands because the championship is for all the college track and field teams in New England, regardless of division.  Due to various conference championships, mostly among the Division I colleges, the date of the meet was moved to this early weekend in February.  More significant was the fact the meet was moved from the Boston University track to the Reggie Lewis Center.  While both tracks are banked, the BU track is significantly more banked, and faster than Reggie Lewis.  The NCAA applies the same penalty to all banked or over-sized (>200 meters) tracks, regardless of the degree of the bank.  That penalty, ~3.2 seconds for the Mile and 9 seconds for the 5K, is arguably worth it at BU, but not at Reggie Lewis.  Thus, many Division III teams who tend to have more national level athletes than their New England Division I counterparts, elected to use the flat tracks in the area, particularly since the Tufts University meet was using pacers in most of their races.

Things started off quite well for MIT on Friday evening at Reggie Lewis. Haley Strouf '18 jumped a season best 18-5 in the Long Jump, having an exceptional series, although she did not make the finals, finishing in 12th place.  Strouf is currently seventh on the NCAA list.  In the women's Pole Vault, Jacqueline Ahrens '21 set the MIT freshman record as she jumped a national qualifying 12-3 1/2, tying her for fourth on that list.  Kari Stromhaug '19 also cleared 12-3 1/2.  The pair placed fourth and fifth respectively.  Makenzie Patarino '19 cleared a personal best 11-11 3/4, making the MIT top 10 pole vault list.

On Saturday, of significance was the men's High Jump.  Both Alec Reduker '20 and Chris Washington '20 cleared 6-8 1/4, a season best for Reduker and a personal best for Washington, placing them sixth and seventh respectively.  Both are tied for 13th on the NCAA list.

Over at Tufts the competition was fantastic and the pacers were doing a great job.  The 5K's were early on the schedule and even though Mary Eccles '18 did not run her season best she did run a great race. The pacer set up a pace that was a little too fast at 81 pace.  Eccles was trying to run her race, but the 1600 was still too fast at 5:28.  After the pacer left the track things got on 83 pace, putting Eccles at 11:01 for 3200 meters.  She certainly fatigued in the final 1600, running 5:39 and finishing in 17:20.31.  She is currently 10th on the NCAA list.  On the men's side, while Dennis Maloney '19 ran a solid 14:46.86, Alex Knoedler '18 and Nicholas Waltman '18 ran New England Division III qualifying times of 15:23.52 and 15:27.59.

The event of the day was definitely the Mile Run for MIT.  In the men's race, a very high quality field was out to qualify for Nationals.  Aidan Gilson '19 was representing MIT and looking to win the race as he makes the transition to a national level runner who is trying to win races, not just run in them.  Gilson settled into the pace as the pace setter led the group through 61 and 2:04 quarters.  Unfortunately the pace slowed dramatically to 3:09, but Gilson used this prepare for his kick.  During the seventh lap it initially looked as though he had given up as the pace picked up.  However, coming out of the final turn he took the lead and held it for the final 200, winning in 4:11.03, the third fastest time in the country, a banked track equivalent of 4:07.87, easily fast enough to get him into Nationals and the top time in New England.  Also running a best for MIT was Brian Bates '20, winning his section in 4:22.94.

Marissa McPhillips '20 was in the women's Mile and figured she would do her part to maintain the winning ways.  The pacer did her job of taking the pace out in 74 and 2:29, but then stepped off the track and there was no one within fifty meters of McPhillips.  The sophomore had prepared for this and took care of business, running 74 point for each quarter to finish in a personal best 4:58.72.  This converts to a banked track equivalent 4:55.80, the fourth best time in the country currently and third best in New England.

In the field events, Cody Bratten '18 threw his season best 45-1 1/2 in the Shot Put as he rounds into championship form.  Other top performances came on the track as Benton Wilson '21 ran 22.43 in the 200 for a flat track PR and second ranked in New England while sitting on 18th place nationally.  Chris Sweeney '18 ran an 8.32 to win the 60HH in a season best ranked second in New England and 19th nationally.  In the 3K, Billy Woltz '20 had an outstanding race in the 3K, running 69-70 pace the entire way for a huge personal best of 8:39.73.  Dylan Doblar '21 also ran a solid race, although he lost focus towards the end, he still ran 8:47.56.  Josh Derrick '20 also qualified for the NED3 meet with an 8:50.64 as he had to lead the entire way in his section of the 3K.

The women had numerous season and personal bests on the day.  Madeleine Waller 'G cleared 10-6 in the Pole Vault for a personal best and was close to making 11-0.  Ariela Slutsky '18 had a season best of 55-5 3/4 in winning the 20 lb. Weight Throw.  Slutsky is ranked second in New England and 11th nationally.  Nneoma Okonkwo '18 returned from injury for her first meet of the year.  She showed she is still better than most of the competition as she jumped 18-4 1/2 to claim second place in the Long Jump.  Okonkwo is ranked eighth nationally.  Hannah Chen '18 ran a season best of 9.09 to get second in the 60HH to move her to seventh on the New England list and 19th nationally.  Michelle Menkiti '20 placed second in the 60 Meter Dash in a season best 8.02 as she rounds into championship shape, but is still only ranked 12th in New England.  The sophomore also won the 200 in 26.19 out of lane three and is ranked third in New England.  Kristin Frombach '19 ran a 400 PR of 62.59 to win her section.  Katie Bacher '20 is back from injury and illness and gave notice in winning the 1000 in 2:59.05, one of three MIT runners ranked in the top four in New England.  Megan McCandless '20 continues to find her way back from injury as she ran a season best 10:11.96 in the 3K to move her to eighth in New England rankings.

Next week MIT will once again split their squad.  Similar to the previous weekend many of the top oval runners will compete at the Boston University David Hemery Valentines Invitational, while the field event athletes will compete at MIT's Gordon Kelly Invitational.