15 NCAA Div. III individual championships
DELAWARE, OHIO—A pair of all-America performances by sprinter Abi Davis (sophomore, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS) gave the Central College women’s track and field squad its best finish in 10 years at the NCAA Division III championships Saturday.
Davis capped a remarkable season with a second-place showing in the 200 meters and a fourth-place performance in the 100 meters. That let the Dutch place 16th nationally with 13 points. It’s Central’s best NCAA showing since notching a 14th-place finish in 2004. The Dutch have recorded five top-25 national finishes in the past 11 seasons.
Meanwhile Eli Horton (junior, Runnells, Southeast Polk HS) captured fourth in the 5,000 meters to let the Dutch men finish 53rd nationally with five points.
Photo courtesy of Paul Hurd, Coe sports information.
Seeded 20th in the 200 meters entering the NCAA meet, Davis raced her way to second place in 24.52 seconds Saturday, just slightly behind her school-record effort of 24.37 seconds in Thursday’s preliminary.
And, while placing fourth in the 100, she was just inches away from a national title as the top four finishers were within 0.04 seconds. Davis clocked in at 11.96 seconds while Wis.-Eau Claire’s Carly Fehler claimed the title in 11.93 seconds.
“Through 60 meters, Abi had the lead,” coach Joe Dunham said. “There were a lot of exciting things about the way she competed.
“I’m very proud of Abi. To run the way she did , coming into the meet in 20th in the 200 and finishing second, we’re really happy about that. It was a great way for her to finish the season, with two more all-America awards.”
Horton also had a taste of the lead in the 5,000 meters before taking fourth in 14:24.76. Austin O’Brien (senior, Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley HS) was 16th in 15:02.54.
“Eli’s game plan was to go out aggressively and make those guys who were doubling (in the 10,000 meters) work hard,” Dunham said. “He led the entire race until the last two laps. He just didn’t have a whole lot left. But he truly gave it his all and he had a great season as well.
“Eli’s had a lot of great accomplishments but this leaves him hungry for an even greater senior year.”
O’Brien, making his first national track and field meet appearance, finished in 15:02.54.
“It just wasn’t Austin’s day,” Dunham said. “It wasn’t for lack of effort. But we’re very happy with all of his accomplishments. The improvements he made between his junior and senior years are nothing short of incredible. He really represented the Dutch well.”
While it was a relatively small group of Central athletes at the national meet by recent standards, Dunham liked the efforts he saw, including those of the teams’ other qualifiers, Hillary Hotz (junior, Fort Dodge, St. Edmond HS) in the high jump and the women’s 4x400-meter relay team, which was an all-underclass group.
“This was great experience for them,” Dunham said. “I talked to Hillary and she’s already anxious to get going for next year.
“And as always, I’ve got to give our coaching staff a lot of credit. They did a great job of getting these kids here and preparing them. I’m really blessed to have such a great staff.”
With plenty of veteran talent returning, Dunham is already thinking about bringing a larger contingent of Dutch athletes to next year’s NCAA meet.
“We’ve got a lot of guys sitting at home who certainly have the capability of being at the national meet next year,” he said. “I’m excited about the way the team finished and I think we show a lot of promise for next year. And I’m really excited about our incoming freshman class. We’ve got a lot of athletes coming in who can make an impact.”