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Friday, February 18, 2005


This weekend' s New England Division III indoor championship meet at Tufts not only boasts the region' s best Division III competitors, but among them are some of the best athletes in the nation this season. As a result, the competition should be hot at the seven-year old Gantcher Family Sports & Convocation Center.

Atop the list of must-see events is the 800 meter run. Leading the pack entering the meet is Brandeis University' s Ryan Parker, who is ranked fourth in the nation with a time of 1:53.01. Jack Morgan of Amherst College is eighth nationally with a 1:53.92. Keene State' s Ryan Gough (12th nationally at 1:54.35) and Nick Digani of Middlebury College (14th with 1:54.94) are also in Saturday' s 800.

The 1,500 meter run will also be hotly contested. The race will feature several runners who are nationally ranked in the mile this season. Dave Bridgewater of Keene State is the top seed with a 3:56.42. Also at the starting line will be Joel Sunshine of Brandeis (3:57.53), Andrew Combs of Bowdoin (3:57.67), Mike Flint from Coast Guard (3:57.69), Joel Anderson of Bates (3:57.97) and MIT' s Fivos Constantinou (3:58.19), all provisional qualifiers in the mile. With less than two seconds seperating the seven, the 1,500 should be a wild race to the finish.

The highlight of the relays should be the Distance Medley, in which New England teams hold two of the nation' s top four times this season. The team from Keene State College is ranked first in the nation with a time of 9:59.33, the only foursome to break 10 minutes this season in Division III so far. Tufts is fourth nationally and second in the meet with a 10:01.33 time. Brandeis University is also a nationally-ranked DMR with a 10:06.86 seed time.

The New England region is also home to two of the nation' s top 4x400 meter relay teams, with the foursome from Bates College ranked third in the nation with a time of 3:17.47, followed closely by Williams College, ranked seventh with a season-best time of 3:18.97.

Speed fans will also get their fill at this weekend' s meet. The 55 meter dash favorite is #9 in the nation Xavier Garcia of Colby College with a seed time of 6.47 seconds. The 400 meter dash will feature two sub-50 runners in Chad Yeamens of Coast Guard (49.13) and Dave Nicholson of Eastern Connecticut (49.27). In the 200, Williams College' s John Symanski has a seed time of 21.65 seconds that would be a new meet and facility record if he were to meet or improve it.

The 55 meter hurdle competition will see two nationally ranked athletes, as #9 Jonathan Garcia of UMass Dartmouth will meet 13th-ranked Jason Monette of Worcester State, among other competition. The two hurdlers are separated by only seven tenths of a second, with times of 7.67 and 7.74 seconds, respectively.

In the distance events, MIT' s Ben Schmeckpeper has run a 8:20.69 in the 3,000 meters this winter. Tufts senior Nate Brigham is ranked fifth nationally in the 5,000 with a 14:36.59 time, far ahead of the best time posted by anyone else in this weekend' s race.

Moving off the track, competition in the field events should prove to be just as good, as these events are also full of nationally-ranked athletes. Tufts sophomore Fred Jones is the region' s top performer in the long jump and triple jump. He is ranked second nationally in the triple jump with a distance of 47' 11 1/4" (14.61 meters) and is 11th in the long jump with a distance of 23' 0 1/2" (7.02m). Jones is joined in the triple by Southern Maine' s Trey Gadbois (47' 1", 14.35m) and Colby' s Garcia (46' 6", 14.17m) as ranked entrants.

Gadbois is also one of New England' s top high jumpers, tied for eighth in the nation with Westfield State' s David Richardson with a jump of 6' 8" (2.03m). Zach Geyer of Coast Guard rounds out New England' s national provisional qualifiers in the high jump, tied for 11th in the nation with a season-high jump of 6' 7 1/2" (2.02m).

Other field events will feature some outstanding individual performers. The pole vault competition will see MIT' s Nathan Ball, ranked fifth in the nation with a jump of 16' 1 1/4" (4.91m). The weight throw includes 62' 6 3/4" (19.07m) thrower Uzoma Orji from MIT and Dustin Gauthier from Bates, who has reached 59' 2 3/4" (18.05m) this year. David Saylor of MIT (57' 7 3/4", 17.57m) is also in the national top 10, and fourth others in this weekend' s meet have also reached the NCAA provisional mark.

MIT' s Orji also leads the region and is ranked fifth in the nation with a season-best throw of 55' 4 3/4" (16.88m) in the shot put. Joining him in the event are 13th-ranked Matt Acciaioli of Springfield College (52' 3 1/4", 15.93m) and 17th-ranked Peter King of Westfield State (51' 9 3/4", 15.79m).

The team title has been a battle between Williams College and MIT for more than a decade. Williams is the defending champion and has won the championship 10 times overall since competition began in 1980. MIT, which won back-to-back titles in 2002-03, has also won 10 overall. Tufts, which won the inaugural event in 1980, is the last team besides Williams or MIT to win the meet, doing so in 1991. The Jumbos also won in 1983. Brandeis University, with titles in 1984 and 1989, is the only other school to win a New England Division III indoor title.