October 13, 2007

On the first competitive day of the season that felt like a fall cross country day, the MIT harriers traveled to Williams College to race in the Plansky Invitational. Tech handed Williams the defeat, outscoring them 34 to 41 with Tufts third in the eight team field with 81 points.

With Williams men's team being the number one team in New England, 14th ranked in the country and on their home course, the task of defeating them might seem a little far fetched. However, MIT thinks of themselves as a little better than the poll takers and thought they would be up to the task. Racing everyone but number four runner, Brian Jacokes, MIT felt they had a reasonable chance to run down the talented and deep Ephs and set out to do it at the start of the race.

MIT hoped for a conservative start, preferring to allow Williams to set the pace and to respect the rolling hills in the third mile of the 6K course. However, no one wanted the lead, much less set a fast pace. The Engineers, led by Jake Ruzevick and Yermie Cohen, were prepared to take the lead if they had to and did so, but at a pedestrian pace of 5:27 for the first mile. They were closely followed by a group of Williams and Tufts runners and couple of RPI runners and the aptly named "peloton" second group from MIT. Things sped up considerably in the second mile as more Williams runners moved up within MIT's chase group and many Tufts runners started losing places in the pack. Edgar Kosgey of Williams had moved into the lead but most places among the top runners did not change. Coming down some of hills and making some of the sharp turns on the third mile it was obvious Williams was more familiar with the course than MIT. Nevertheless, Tech runners asserted themselves in the final mile. Ruzevick tried to break Kosgey but was caught after the big downhill. Kosgey pulled away in the final 400, showing superior speed to Ruzevick. Cohen held on for second and Joe Roy-Mayhew outkicked his opponents to give MIT fourth place as well. Tufts and Williams put in the next seven runners with Tufts having four and Williams three. However, MIT finished with the next three runners, only 21 seconds behind Ruzevick to close out the victory.

Of the first 29 finishers, 13 were MIT runners, 12 from Williams, and four from Tufts. The NCAA regional qualifier is in four weeks and it will be interesting to see where these teams are at that time.

The plan for the women was the same as for the men, but the lack of experience combined by their own excitement led to the MIT women going out too hard in the first mile of the race. Williams took advantage of this and ran them down in the last mile of the race to win the 4K 18 to 41.

Williams took their usual conservative start and instead of being content to lead casually through the first mile, MIT took the pace out very hard led by Maria Monks going out in 5:41 at the mile. Monks had a 10 second lead at this point, but Williams had already caught the rest of the MIT runners and held a slight edge with their top five runners versus MIT's top five runners. By the two mile mark, Monks lead had shrunk to three seconds and Williams held the next five positions. At the finish two Williams runners caught Monks, winning in 14:52 and 14:54 respectively compared to 15:00 for Monks. The next four Williams runners were between 15:11 and 15:15, showing their strength. MIT held the next six places with Elizabeth Finn (15:22), Jacqui Wentz (15:27), Liz Labuz (15:35), Jennifer Doyle (15:40), Alina Gatowski (15:46) and Katy Gordon (15:48) getting the job done.

Williams, the 5th ranked team in the country, showed their superiority but MIT going out so hard and setting themselves up did not help matters. "I was not happy with the speed they used to start the race, but I was very pleased with how they did not back off once they were committed to the pace," said MIT coach, Halston Taylor.

Like the men, the next race for women is the NEWMAC Conference Championship hosted by Smith College on 11/27. The men have won the meet each of the nine championships since the inception of the conference. The women won it in 2001 and 2003, but look to add to that total this year.