Cutters, Kappa Kappa Gamma take Little 500 poles
By Nathan Hart
But far from perfect was more than enough for the team that has won the last three Little 500s.
With a four-lap time of 2:20.52 on its second qualifying attempt, the Cutters secured the pole position for the 2010 Little 500, in which the team will go for an unprecedented fourth-consecutive title.
On the women’s side, Kappa Kappa Gamma took the pole position by posting a 2:42.19, edging out Teter’s qualifying run of 2:42.22.
“It feels great,” sophomore Kappa Kappa Gamma rider Megan Gruber said. “Last year, we weren’t that high. We came out wanting to come in first and we did it.”
Saturday’s qualifier set the lineups for the men’s and women’s Little 500 races on the weekend of April 23. With attempts starting at 8 a.m. and continuing until early evening, 38 men’s and 34 women’s teams vied for the 33 spots in each race.
After the successful run, junior Cutters rider Eric Young put the pole position in perspective for the ever-confident team.
“It doesn’t mean much, but we don’t like losing,” Young said. “It’ll be good to be in the front row. We’re not really worried about that. The race is much more important. But we definitely do enjoy beating other teams.”
For the second time in the women’s race history, more than 33 teams attempted to make the race. With the 34th fastest time, Sigma Delta Tau joined the 2006 Gamma Phi Beta teams as the only women’s teams to not qualify for the race.
On the men’s side, the day belonged to the Cutters.
The Cutters took the track for an early afternoon qualifying with Young — the team’s top sprinter — riding the first lap. As he barreled down the back stretch, his bike wheel hit the gutter in turn three and he wiped out into the infield grass.
On the second of three possible attempts, the Cutters eased up on their exchanges and faced issues as sophomore Michael Schroeder and junior Zach Lusk slid out on turn three on the fast, slick track. But their four-lap time topped Gray Goat Cycling’s 2:21.87 for the top spot.
Phi Kappa Psi squeezed between Gray Goat and the Cutters later in the afternoon with a 2:21.57 for the middle spot in the first row.
“Our ultimate goal is to get in the race No. 1,” Lusk said. “But it’s nice to be in the top-six spots.”
A de-emphasis on the pole position was a theme all day. Gruber said the pole only meant one thing: “It means we’d get the green jersey on race day.”
Last year’s pole winners Phi Delta Theta (men) and Teter (women) seemed almost relieved not to be on the pole.
“We’re happy with our time,” Phi Delta Theta senior rider Matt Kain said. “Last year, we got pole and finished 15th in the race and were in two wrecks. We’re just happy to be in the race.”
The 2007, 2008 and 2009 pole-winning women’s team Teter echoed Kain’s statements. Teter did not win any of the races they were on the pole.
“It was kind of a win-win,” Teter junior rider Caitlin Van Kooten said. “If we get pole, that’s exciting, but if we don’t get pole, we broke the Teter pole curse.”
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