Not Enough to Lead Team to Nationals

November 13, 2004

Ben Schmeckpeper ran the race of his career, at least thus far, as he defended his NCAA Regional / New England Division III Championship title at the Twin Brook Recreation Area on the 8K course. Despite the freezing temperatures and brisk wind the times were fast. Schmeckpeper worked his way up to the leaders during the second mile and turned a modest pace (10:39 at two miles) into a very fast one as he ran 14:58 over the final three miles on a very hilly course to finish in 25:37.

Despite his best efforts, it was not enough to help the Engineers qualify for the National Championship. Needing to place among the top four teams out of the 39 complete squads racing, the plan was to respect the hilly course and go out somewhat conservatively. The mistake made by the main group of MIT runners was how conservatively they ran the first mile, and that was unfortunately much too slow. Hoping to finish among the top 30 runners, John Brewer, Eric Khatchadourian, Carlos Renjifo, Fivos Constantinou and Kevin Brulois hoped to hit the first mile in 5:25, which would have put them in a perfect 40th-50th position. Brewer ran aggressively and started fast, coming through the mile mark in 5:20. Khatchadourian, Renjifo, Constantinou, Brulois, with freshman Chris Bruce following, came through the mile in 5:45, which put them at around 120th position at that point in the race.

Despite their desire to move up and accomplish their goal, it was too much to do with not enough time to do it in. Brewer held on to his position throughout the race and finished 23rd in a very respectable 26:48. Renjifo eventually moved up to 49th in 27:26. Brulois closed hard to place 57th in 27:35. Constantinou finished the scoring in 60th position in 27:39.

Tufts University ran the race they expected to and won quite easily with 62 points. Williams College ran a superb race, coming closer than expected to Tufts, scoring 83 points. Keene State ran well to place third with 112 points. Bates College perhaps ran the best race of all when they placed fourth with 145 points despite not having one of their top five runners, who was out with a stress fracture. Wesleyan took advantage of MIT's poor showing, beating them for fifth place by one point, 189 to 190.

Once Schmeckpeper decided to take control of things he threw in what should have been a devastating third mile in 5:06. The third mile is the hilliest one on the course and the pace was hard enough to make most doubt their ability to finish. However, while the pace certainly strung things out, it appeared an unusual number of competitors were in it for the long haul. The fourth mile, a winding, hilly mile itself, was hammered in 5:02 by Schmeckpeper. This effort took care of all but one runner, Neal Holtschulte of Williams College. Holtschulte, an All America runner who had placed sixth at last year's NCAA Championship was not going to be shaken. Schmeckpeper dropped a 4:50 final mile and still the race was neck and neck coming down the final downhill straight with each runner taking turns at the lead. As the runners came within sight of the finish line, Holtschulte took a one step lead. Schmeckpeper, not known for his kicking ability, found the passion and desire to overtake Holtschulte in the final fifty meters to win by two seconds.

Next Saturday, Schmeckpeper and the other qualifiers will converge at the White Tail Golf Course in Colfax, Wisconsin to race in the NCAA Division III Championship, hosted by the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. Schmeckpeper, an All America runner two years ago, narrowly missed last year and hopes to atone for that and be among the top finishers in this year's championship.