National champions

Five Rensselaer student athletes were invited to compete at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III Indoor Track and Field Championship Meet held on Friday, March 10, and Saturday, March 11, in Naperville, Illinois.

The men’s distance medley relay team of senior Colin Smith, sophomore Jason Hall, freshman Noah Falasco, and senior Ben Fazio earned the Institute’s first national indoor track relay title in school history on Saturday, winning the event in 9:56.42.

Running the first leg of the race, Smith championed 1200 meters in 3:04, which placed RPI in the lead. The team fell back to third place in the second leg: a 400 meter dash by Hall. Falasco maintained third place in the 800-meter-long third leg with a time of 1:55.

With 1600 meters remaining, Falasco passed the baton to Fazio. In a strategy that played out in the best possible way, Fazio dropped back to fifth place for two laps, then burst to the lead in the remaining two laps, holding off the competition and taking Rensselaer’s second-ever NCAA indoor title.

“The guys who ran before me did everything expected of them and more,” said Fazio. “Colin especially ran one of the most tactically smart races I’ve ever seen, and was rewarded with the lead in the last 50 meters. Jason had the hard task of running from the front, but kept the team in good position. Noah did a great job holding position as well and keeping the Middlebury team, whose 800 meter leg was exceptionally strong, within reach.

“By the time I got the baton, the field was thinned out, but we weren’t too far behind the leader. I kept my eye on him while relaxing in the pack, waiting until the second half of my leg to catch up. I spent the fifth lap catching up and decided to go around him rather than waiting any longer.

“I held off an attack from him with 400 to go, and spent the rest of the race running from the front and hoping I was putting distance between myself and the other teams. It was definitely exciting on the track, both before and after, but I think our coaching staff did a great job keeping us level-headed, and that really helped to keep us relaxed and focused on the task at hand while racing.”

Also on Saturday, sophomore Grant O’Connor competed in the 5000 meter race, crossing in 13th place with a time of 14:45.66. The winning time of 14:25.08 went to a senior from Tufts University.

On Sunday, Fazio returned to the track, posting a fourth-place time of 8:21.86 in the 3000 meter. Fazio remarked that, although his performance wasn’t as strong as he hoped, it was great experience for him, as he plans to contend for another national title in the outdoor 5000 meter race.

With the indoor track and field season officially over, the Engineers are conditioning for their first outdoor meet of the season: the Tufts University Snowflake Classic on April 1. The meet will begin at 10 am.