September 25, 1999

It is not clear whether the MIT Men's Cross Country Team is overachieving, or if they are determined to reach their competitive potential, but whichever it is, collectively, they ran a very inspired race to defend their Codfish Bowl title at Tufts' Grafton course with a low score of 56 points to defeat nationally ranked Tufts (14th), and Brandeis (15th), who had 86 and 94 points respectively.

The course is very hilly with one of the hills coming 100 metes into the race, which tends to keep those with experience from going out too fast. However, the course also narrows pretty quickly and has a narrow starting area to begin with, at least for 225 runners. Given the choice of sitting back and getting swallowed by the mass of runners, or going out aggressively and risking death on the course, those teams who hope to win usually pick the latter.

MIT certainly decided on the aggressive approach, to the point that Coach Halston Taylor was envisioning a fade comparable to having runners try to race with open parachutes on their back. Dan Feldman '02, expecting to contend for the individual title, went out with the leaders, but had the sense to sit at the back or that pack for the first mile, which was in a very fast 4:57. The second pack of Tech runners, which included Ed Keehr '01, Sean Montgomery '01, Chris McGuire '00, Phil Loiselle '01, and Frank Johnston '00, began the race in about 30th position on the first hill, but had already made their way into 20th place by the mile mark as they came through in 5:07. A third group, all freshmen, led by Sean Nolan, were more conservative at the mile mark with a 5:20 time, but were already beginning to separate.

The second mile saw the front pack of runners separate as the fast early pace began to take its toll on those who were ill prepared for such aggressive racing. Feldman, along with Samson Yohannes from Brandeis, and Matt Lyons from Tufts had separated themselves from the rest of the field and were pulling away with each step, which was indicated by their continued torrid pace of 10:00. Keehr and Montgomery had moved into the top 15 at 2 miles (10:19), but seemed to be dissatisfied with that position. McGuire, Loiselle, and Johnston were still in about 20th, but maintaining their pace well at 10:23. Nolan and Testa '03, had fallen back some in time (10:46), but were maintaining a great pace and were moving up through the sea of runners.

The third mile is the slowest on the course, in part because of the aggressive early running, but also because of the many turns combined with the changes in elevation. This fact was consistent with the Engineers, but the time deviation was minimal. Feldman had taken the lead on Yohannes, and Lyons had fallen off the pace a bit as they came through in 15:28. Keehr had moved into the top 10 with a three mile split of 15:59. Montgomery had fallen asleep at the wheel and fallen back by :02. McGuire, Loiselle, and Johnston were still together and maintaining their position with a split of 16:12. Meanwhile, Nolan had begun to move up significantly within the pack of runners, and for the first time had a mile split faster than McGuire's group. It was beginning to look as though the Tech runners were not going to fade at all. However, Tufts and Brandeis were still very much in this race.

At mile four, Feldman was still in the lead, but Yohannes looked a bit too comfortable for Dan to feel secure about his lead. Keehr was making a move on the top 5 with a vicious 4th mile of 5:22. Montgomery continued to doze, which is expected when someone who is primarily a middle distance track runner takes a race out so aggressively, and fell :14 behind Ed, but he did maintain his position in the top 15. McGuire, who had been fluctuating from the front to the back and in-between within his group, moved ahead of Loiselle by :01 and Johnston by :04. Nolan continued his move to the front with a 5:20 mile 4, which moved him to within :10 of Johnston and into the top 30. MIT was all but home free.

Coming into the finish, MIT continued to pass people. Yohannes made a big move and pulled ahead of Feldman, winning the race by :07 in 25:53, just :12 off the course record. Keehr had another strong mile and nearly got 4th place, settling for 5th in 26:39. McGuire briefly caught up to Montgomery, woke him up by telling him to get going, and finished :07 behind in 16th place. Montgomery finished strong and moved up to 12th with a time of 27:01. Loiselle was only :08 behind in 21st. Nolan passed Johnston and finished in 23rd with a time of 27:22. Sean was the 2nd Division III freshman finisher in the race. Johnston was only :02 behind in 25th place. Chris Testa faded a bit, but held on pretty well to finish in 35th with a time of 27:53. Liyan Guo '01, perhaps overworked in practice this week, had a tough outing, finishing in 45th with a 28:35. Albert Liu '03, fell off the pace of his group early, but kept a good pace throughout in finishing 65th with a time of 28:35. Kenny Walker '01, was the final Tech finisher in 78th out of 225 registering a time of 28:52.

Next week, the top 9 are taking a breather before traveling to Wisconsin for the National Preview Meet on the 9th. The 10-17 runners will compete at the Babson Invitational this coming weekend at Babson College.