This weekend the men’s track and field team sent five athletes to the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind. to compete at the Div. III indoor national championships. Qualifying for the national meet is an accomplishment in itself, yet the Ephs went into the meet with goals of season-best performances and All-American finishes.
Co-captain Macklin Chaffee ’09 was ranked fifth in the mile going into this year’s national meet after running a personal-best time of 4:10.01 earlier this season on the banked track at Boston University. After finishing ninth in the mile at indoor nationals as a sophomore, Chaffee has become one of the preeminent milers in the country, going on to finish eighth in the mile at last year’s indoor national championships and second in the 1500 meters at last year’s outdoor national championships.
For Chaffee, this year’s national meet began on Friday afternoon when he ran in the first of two preliminary heats of the mile. Chaffee’s fourth place finish in his heat proved sufficient to advance to the finals since his time of 4:11.76, a personal-best for a flat track, was faster than any time run in the second heat. In the finals, Chaffee raced against the nine other best milers in the country, including defending mile champion Peter Kosgei of Hamilton. Chaffee shot to the front of the pack in the first 100 meters of the race and proceeded to lead for the first seven laps of the eight lap race. Chaffee entered the last lap at a marked disadvantage after doing all of the work to that point. Although Chaffee’s fast pace had already dropped much of the field, Kosgei and the three other big kickers made moves by Chaffee in the last lap to take the top four spots. Regardless, Chaffee’s fifth place finish in a time of 4:10.90, another personal-best for a flat track and only 1.08 seconds off the school record, makes him a four-time track All-American and caps another successful track season.
Joining Chaffee at the national meet was the 4×400 meter relay team of co-captains Deividas Seferis ’09 and Alex Hoerman ’09, Taylor Fitzgerald ’11 and Viktor Nagy ’12. The group entered nationals ranked fourth with a time of 3:16.04, and hoped to challenge for a national title. Unfortunately, Saturday was not the Ephs’ day – they narrowly missed All-American status with a ninth place finish, less than one second behind the final All-American spot.
Seferis began the race for the Ephs and quickly jumped to the lead on the first lap, handing off to Fitzgerald a half step behind the leader. A few teams passed Fitzgerald in the final stretch of his leg, but Nagy made that ground back up to hand off to Hoerman in second. Hoerman ran a strong first lap, but felt the effects of an injured hamstring in the final lap when three anchor legs passed him. The Ephs finished fifth in their heat and behind four teams from the first heat, resulting in ninth place overall. Although missing All-American status by 0.8 seconds hurts, the team’s performance after months of racing is something to be proud of.
“We all came out and ran as hard as we could and did our best to represent our teammates back home,” Fitzgerald said. “It is truly amazing to be on the national stage; we cannot wait to give the Williams community a better show.”
Nagy, whose fast split kept the Ephs in contention, weighed in on his freshman nationals experience, saying, “I was having the time of my life, but I’m disappointed by the results. It was nobody’s fault; it was just bad luck.”
Williams finished the meet in 48th place and now enters the outdoor season with a new resolve, hoping to improve on this finish at outdoor nationals.