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Tuesday, May 28
The Indiana Daily Student

sports little 500

‘It stings a lot’: Sigma Alpha Epsilon heartbroken after the men’s Little 500

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Two Sigma Alpha Epsilon riders embrace in the team’s pit. Others bite their lip, stifling tears of sadness, disappointment and exhaustion. Their faces are etched in dirt that is smeared down their faces from the few tears that escaped. 

In the 73rd edition of the men’s Little 500, Sigma Alpha Epsilon held a monstrous lead for over 100 laps. 

But in the record books, only a sixth-place finish will be written down. 

“It stings a lot right now, I will tell you that,” SAE coach Bill Naas said postrace. “For all those boys, it stings a lot.” 

SAE entered the race looking to achieve its third Little 500 victory since 1951 and first since 2002 when it raced under “The Corleones.” After finishing 20th in 2022 and sixth in 2023, the team’s eyes were set on victory.

 

Spring Series gave reason for SAE to believe. It finished second in qualifications, third in team pursuit and second in the overall standings, only behind Sigma Phi Epsilon. Junior Luke Naas had a successful spring as well, finishing first in the Individual Time Trials and fourth in the Miss N Outs event. 

Beginning in the middle of row two, SAE raced near the front of the pack for the first thirty laps. Then around lap 44, the team made a push. 

“We knew we had a really deep team, so we tried to go out there and make other teams work to close it,” Luke said. “We thought that if we could go out there and hold a tempo, we could outlast them.” 

For over 100 laps, SAE led the race, with the advantage stretching, at one point, to over 20 seconds. This tactic had been discussed prior to the race according to Bill, and it was something the team had agreed to do. 

“We knew we wanted to be aggressive,” Bill said. “We didn’t want to train all year and then just sit in and wait for a sprint — we wanted to race.” 

Soon after the 20 second lead, a trailing pack of Black Key Bulls, CUTTERS, Sigma Phi Epsilon and other top teams began to make ground. CUTTERS coach Jim Kirkham said the teams in the group had to be willing to work together to catch up with the leaders. 

“If the chasing group rides a consistent, steady pace, it’s really hard for a team to get away,” Kirkham said postrace. “There [were] a lot of teams willing to do that today, and it made it really hard for SAE to grow that advantage over half of a lap.” 

With 51 laps remaining, SAE finally relinquished its lead. But only moments later, it regained it, maintaining a steady pace at the front with Black Key Bulls. 

The two jostled at the top for 30 laps, but with only 20 laps to go, Black Key Bulls broke away to capture its third Little 500 victory since beginning to race in 2006.

Mirroring Sigma Phi Epsilon’s performance from a year prior, SAE led for more than half the race. But what mattered most was who crossed the finish line first: Black Key Bulls. 

Winning was at the forefront of the team’s mind, but Bill remembers the riders talking about other goals they wanted to achieve on race day. 

“They said, ‘When we leave the track, we want to win. But if we don’t win, I want to make sure I left everything on the track,’” Bill said. “And they did that. They left everything out there.” 

Looking forward to the next season, SAE returns all four of its riders. And for Luke, there is still more to be done — and more to accomplish. 

“More hard work,” Naas said. “Focusing on the end goal, thinking about this one right now, how we feel and how we can capitalize on it next year.”

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