11 NCAA Div. III individual championships
LA CROSSE, WIS.— Adding his name to Central College's illustrious roster of multi-event phenoms, sophomore Eric Larson (Waverly, Waverly-Shell Rock HS) raced to the national decathlon title Friday at the NCAA Division III men's and women's track and field championships.
It's the third straight year that a Dutch athlete has captured the national crown and the fifth time since 2001.
It's a sweep for Larson, who also won the NCAA Division III indoor heptathlon in March and was fifth in the outdoor decathlon as a freshman last year. He led almost wire-to-wire, grabbing the lead after the second event and never letting go. Wis.-Eau Claire sophomore Brandon Zarnoth was on his heels most of the way, but Larson turned in a career-best 4:38.89 in the 1,500 meters to clinch the title. It was the sixth personal best in two days for Larson, who Friday had his best-ever effort in the 110-meter hurdles (14.96 seconds), javelin throw (146 feet, one inch) and the pole vault (13-3.5). He had never even tried the latter two events before arriving at Central. Friday he also threw the discus 111-10.
“It’s great for Eric to win another national championship,” said coach Joe Dunham. “He really progressed well through the second day. Getting a personal best at any point during the decathlon is a big deal, and he did it early and often.”
But Larson’s day wasn’t quite as easy as the results would suggest.
“He had some scary moments when he missed his first two attempts in the pole vault,” said Dunham. “But he was able to overcome that and keep things rolling.”
Larson racked up 6,969 points, to Zarnoth’s 6,860. That puts him fourth on Central's all-time list. Ethan Miller, who won the title the past two years, had 7,170 in 2011 and Kurtis Brondyke had 7,109 that same year.
Dunham also cited associate head coach Jim Fuller.
“Coach Fuller did a great job getting him ready for the weekend,” said Dunham. “He deserves a lot of credit.”
It's the 19th time a Central athlete has earned all-America distinction in the decathlon and the Dutch have captured a combined eight men's and women's indoor and outdoor national multi-event titles.
Central has now claimed 31 individual NCAA championships in all sports.
Meanwhile, senior Felicia Coleman (Houston, Texas, J. Frank Dobie HS) closed out her highly-successful collegiate track and field career with a 13th-place finish in the 100 meter dash preliminary round. Coleman was hobbled by an injured hamstring over the weekend, but still crossed the line in 12.21 seconds, less than a tenth of a second from her lifetime best.
“Felicia had a great career,” said Dunham. “It’s disappointing that she won’t be competing tomorrow but she had a phenomenal season.”
The meet will conclude Saturday with Dutch distance standout Eli Horton (sophomore, Runnels, Southeast Polk HS) competing in the 5,000 meters at 5:55 p.m. Horton holds the field’s top qualifying mark at 14:12.4. The Dutch men are currently tied for eighth in the team standings with 10 points.