3rd Place Finish in New England Division III Championship Advances Team
November 17, 2001
MIT's Men's Cross Country team placed 3rd among a 32 team field in the New England Division III Championship/NCAA Region I Qualifier to advance to next week's NCAA Division III National Championship being hosted by Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. After last year's debacle, where MIT was considered the best team in the country not to go to nationals, the team felt they had something to prove all season. Led by Sean Nolan, who placed fourth in 25:08, and Dan Feldman, 6th in 25:12, the Engineers scored 106 points behind 54 for the victorious Keene State team and 83 for Bowdoin College.
The national formula for determining how many teams qualify out of each of the eight regions, has New England sending five teams, the maximum for any region. Last year, New England was also permitted five teams, and MIT, thought to have a spot clinched, had to run without one of its top runners and had poor races from the more senior runners on the team. This ultimately caused them to miss the trip to nationals by seven points as they finished sixth.
This year, there were six good teams who had a strong chance of being among the five to advance. MIT did not concern themselves with this proposition, but instead concentrated on trying to win the race. Ranked 4th in the region, the Engineers nevertheless thought if they could continue to improve as they had been doing all season, they would have a chance.
The goal was to go out a bit slow at the start, but to be in good position at the mile mark. The team definitely erred on the side of caution as they left the line with an extremely slow start for all but Feldman. By the mile mark, Dan was with the leaders in a fast 4:40 for the flat first loop. Sean Nolan was :08 back in 30th or so and Sean Montgomery, Albert Liu, Ben Schmeckpeper and Brian Anderson were another :06 behind in about 60th place. Mark Strauss, bothered by a cold, was even more cautious in 5:04, putting him behind over 100 runners.
By mile 2, Feldman was in 2nd place, behind eventual winner, Mark Miller of Keene State, who was beginning to pull away. Nolan had closed the gap by :01, which moved him up about 10 places as some began to fade. Montgomery, Liu, Schmeckpeper and Anderson lost another :08-:10 but also moved up a few spots. Strauss was now running the same place as Montgomery et al.
Miles 3 and 4 were back along a winding, narrow dirt road that took the runners on an out and back loop. Feldman began to fatigue, and Nolan moved up to 2nd place. Montgomery was beginning to separate from Liu, but both were moving up through the field. Schmeckpeper had a lapse during the 4th mile, which caused him to lose ground to his teammates but held him steady in the race. Strauss was gaining on Schmeckpeper to look to add some help, but Anderson was falling back a bit.
In the final mile, three runners surprised Nolan and passed him with over a half mile to go. However, Sean did not give up as he passed one of them back to finish 4th. Dan held onto 6th, finishing strong, despite going out so quickly. Montgomery had the best finish with a 4:40 final mile to move up to 19th. Albert ran a great race, finishing 33rd overall and only :57 behind Nolan. Ben regained focus and finished strong to place 44th, only 1:11 behind Nolan. Mark closed to with 3 places of Ben to provide the support the team needed. Brian finished in 79th close out the team's scoring.
Coach Halston Taylor felt his team was a little too cautious at the start, which cost them some places in the end. Nevertheless, he feels the team ran their best race of the year thus far, particularly Sean Nolan and Albert Liu.
While the team did not reach their lofty goal, they did reach their beginning of the season goal, which was to advance to nationals. However, the year is not over, as the Tech harriers have yet to run their best race, which they hope will put them among the top 10 teams at next weekends championship.