Men’s track and field opened its season at the unscored Smith College Winter Classic on Saturday, earning a number of early qualifiers and measuring its fitness against some of the top teams in the region.
The distance team dominated the 5000 meter from start to finish, sweeping the first six places and qualifying for a number of postseason events. Executing the predetermined race strategy to near perfection, cross country All-American Chris Lee ’14 and tri-captain Brandon Abasolo ’13 eased off the pace early on before dusting their competitors en route to the top two times thus far in Div. III: 15:07.2 and 15:07.7, respectively. Rookie Bijan Mazaheri ’16 finished right on his teammates’ heels, earning third in 15:11.1. Wade Davis ’13, Aldis Inde ’15 and Todd Ford ’16 also impressed the coaches with New England Div. III qualifiers.
“That several of the athletes who competed in the 5000 meter raced off their base from the cross country season may be indicative of great things to come on the track after their training becomes more tailored for the relatively shorter distances,” Abasolo said.
Eric Schneider ’15 led off for the middle-distance team with a second-place finish in the 600 meter. After going out in a quick 53 seconds through 400 meters, Schneider nearly out-dueled New England champion Matt Melton of Amherst. Nick Wolf ’14 earned a second-place finish in his own right in the 800 meter, nearly edging Keene State’s Ryan Widzgowski. Behind him, John Sutton ’15 in fifth, Daquan Daly ’16 in sixth and Sam Woodbury ’14 in seventh made their track debuts, each finishing in 2:04.
Other newcomers also had banner days. Katakyie Ofori-Atta ’16 took first in the 60 meter in 7.07 seconds, and Chris Sheahan ’13 also took the title in the shotput with a throw of 12.98 meters. Emmanuel Daring ’15 led the sprint squad in the 200 meter, earning third place in 23.19 seconds. The Ephs put together a strong 4×800 team of Daly, Wolf, Nathaniel Sutton ’14 and Reid Pryzant ’16, which managed to grab fourth in 8:32. Led by Schneider and Daring, the men’s 4×400 nearly won the final event of the day, but was ultimately upstaged by Franklin Pierce.
“Eric Schneider really impressed with his second place showing in the 600 meter and stellar leg on the 4×400 meter relay,” Abasolo said. “I’m hoping that translates well into the future. Manny Daring also had a great showing in winning his heat of the 200 meter and participating in the 4×200 meter and 4×400 meter relays. We have the potential to put together a really formidable 4×400 meter relay team with potentially these two and whoever else comes out of the woodwork.”
Early season meets such as this one give the men a valuable chance to test line-ups and abilities heading into the indoor competition season, as well as simply giving athletes the time to adjust to competition. “It was a perfect opening meet for many of our first-years to compete in a low-key atmosphere in a top-notch track facility,” Interim Head Coach Pete Farwell ’73 said. “[The] coaches were very pleased with the early season performances, the team spirit and the multitude of relays in [the] two final events.”
The men will return to competition on Jan. 12 at the Yale Invite. Events will begin at 9 a.m.