November 23, 2002

Ben Schmeckpeper finished 32nd at the NCAA Division III National Championship, earning All America honors as a sophomore. Sean Nolan, running in 25th place with 400 meters to go, lost motor control of his body, falling numerous times in the final 100 meters as he lost about :20 seconds and 44 places, finishing 69th in the field of over 200 finishers.

Even though the MIT pair of Nolan and Schmeckpeper had finished 6th and 10th respectively at the NCAA Regional Qualifying race, both were certain they could earn All America honors by finishing in the top 35 at Nationals one week later. The 35 degree temperatures and fierce wind did nothing to change their plans, in fact, it may have fortified them.

The alleyed start saw Schmeckpeper in the front of the inside group with Nolan just a second or two back. Settling in after the first quarter mile, no one wanted to take the lead and the pace slowed with Schmeckpeper in 5th and Nolan in 15th at the mile in 4:45. During the 2nd mile the MIT duo was passed by a few of the eventual front runners who had taken it easy in the first mile, but both were in the top 30 at the end of the 2nd mile. At mile three, Nolan was around 20th in 15:13 with Schmeckpeper just behind in 15:17. They seemed in solid position but the 4th mile with its long hill was yet to come.

Coming up the long hill, Nolan was holding onto his top 25 position with Schmeckpeper :03 back, and both still looking okay. It was at this point that Nolan said he knew he was in trouble. Nevertheless, he did not back off, determined to make his last season a good one. Going down the hill he started to feel better, but as he entered the pond loop with a little over a half mile to go, he began to lose his balance. Still, he held on to 25th place. Coming out of the pond loop and going up a little hill, Nolan was really beginning to struggle. Coming down the other side of that hill and rounding the turn to go up the final steep incline to the finish, he began to wobble, yet he still held on to his place. Going up the hill Nolan had to virtually crawl up to the final plateau, then with less than 15 meters to the finish, he fell. This time, it was not certain he could get up as it was apparent he barely knew where he was. Summoning an inner strength born of a prior immense passion to do well in this race, Nolan struggled across the finish in 26:05.

Schmeckpeper, stunned by his teammates fall, faltered slightly, losing a couple of places, before realizing he needed to finish. Finish he did, earning the highest finish ever for an MIT sophomore, with his 25:47, at the NCAA Division III National Championship.

It is time to take some time off and gear up for the long Indoor Track season where both runners have goals of qualifying for nationals in the 5000 meters and earning All America honors once there.