November 20, 1999
It was amazing enough that the Men's Cross Country team qualified for the NCAA Division III National Championships when they had lost their number five runner to an achilles tendon injury, and their number two runner to fatigue and an ensuing hip injury. But when the 21st ranked Engineers placed 14th in a very talent laden field, it showed the hard work and determination that these student/athletes put into this season.
Right from the start of the season MIT was working out of a hole, when Mark Strauss, Tech's number one runner from last season, was ruled academically ineligible, combined with the loss of 1998 number two man, Mike Parkins to graduation. Nevertheless, successful summers by most of the returning varsity members seemed to indicate the possibility of a successful season.
The hard work, and commitment to be the best possible, was rewarded by all seven runners achieving personal bests for an 8K course. Having run the national course at Oshkosh, Wisconsin once before when the Engineers came out for the National Preview meet, and knowing that most teams at Nationals tend to go out too fast, MIT decided to try and be conservative. While Tech runners still went out about 5 seconds too quickly for the first mile, they still were better served by holding back as much as they did.
At the mile mark, Dan Feldman led all MIT runners with a 4:37 split, which was 10 seconds behind the leaders. It was obvious that Dan had gone out to quickly and that he would pay for it, how much was the question. Chris McGuire and Sean Montgomery were next at 4:47 and 4:49 respectively back in about 120th position. Liyan Guo was close behind in 4:50, but Frank Johnston and Chris Testa were in the back 40 or so with 4:55 splits. Sean Nolan was a bit too conservative with a 5:00 time for the mile.
The plan was for the Engineers to move up strongly during the second mile, but that did not happen to the degree that the team hoped for, possibly due to the ambitious early pace. Feldman did have a strong 2nd mile and moved into 23rd place.
During the 3rd mile, Feldman fell back to 35th. McGuire and Montgomery moved up to about 100th place overall. Guo fell back a bit on the third mile, but Testa and Johnston stayed about the same. Mile four was very strong for Testa as he moved up to within :03 of Guo.
The final mile was a good one for MIT. As opposing runners faded, Tech runners were picking them off, one by one. Montgomery closed hard with a 4:50 last mile to close to within :25 of Feldman who had finished in 44th place overall, and 32nd in team scoring. This surge placed Sean 95th overall, and 65th in team scoring. Chris McGuire was only :05 back, finishing in 102nd overall, and 72nd in team scoring. Liyan finished with a 4:55 final mile to place 130th overall, and 93rd in team scoring. Freshman Chris Testa, substituting for Ed Keehr, ran an awesome last mile in 4:52 to place right after Liyan to give MIT a total team score of 356, 9 points out of 13th place in the 24 team field. Frank Johnston finished his MIT career with an excellent PR of 26:06, and freshman Sean Nolan also set a PR with a time of 26:14. The respective times for Feldman, Montgomery, McGuire, Guo, and Testa were 24:44, 25:09, 25:14, 25:29, and 25:29.
MIT, finishing 5th among New England colleges, behind Keene State in 2nd, Tufts in 9th, Bates in 10th, and Williams in 11th, defeated the best teams in four of the regions represented, showing the strength of the New England region. Next year, the New England region will once again receive 5 team places at Nationals, which is determined by each region receiving 1 automatic bid, and 1 additional bid for each team that places among the top 16 at Nationals the year before, with a cap of 5 being put in place for any region.
This bodes well for MIT, who return 8 of their top 10, with 6 returning runners having broken 26:00 for five miles. A good year of track, combined with high mileage in the summer should see the team hoping for a higher place when the NCAA Championships are held in Spokane, WA in 2000.