15 NCAA Div. III individual championships
LINCOLN, NEB.—Running the 1,600-meter leg of the distance medley relay, Eli Horton (junior, Runnells, Southeast Polk HS) grabbed the baton, took the lead and never looked back.
Horton took the lead in the first lap of the 1,600-meter leg and pulled away, giving Central College its first-ever men's track events indoor national title with a meet record 9 minutes, 54.8 seconds at Friday's 2014 NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships at Lincoln, Neb.
Austin O'Brien (senior, Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley HS) set the tone early, handing off in third after the 1,200-meter leg. Newly inserted 400-meter runner Spencer Hammack (sophomore, Ottumwa) pulled the Dutch closer and handed off in second. Drew Jackson (junior, Johnston) traded the lead with Wis.-Stevens Point during the 800-meter leg before handing off to Horton.
The time shatters the previous meet mark of 9:59.58 set last year, while improving on the school record set earlier this season by more than four seconds.
“It was an incredible effort,” coach Joe Dunham said. “It was the true story of four runners each doing something special for the good of the group. Austin ran smart and handed off near the lead. Spencer ran an unbelievable split, as did Drew. Then Eli had the challenge of running alone the entire leg, which is hard with teams chasing. But he did it and they did it.
“You can never take away a national championship and they are now the best distance medley relay team to ever run at the national meet. I’m really proud of them.”
It’s the fifth NCAA Division III indoor championship in program history, with the first four coming in field events and multi-events. Cale Van Genderen and Ethan Miller won the high jump in 2005 and 2011, respectively. Kurtis Brondyke was also atop the podium in 2011 after winning the pentathlon, followed by Eric Larson’s (junior, Waverly, Waverly-Shell Rock HS) heptathlon title last year.
Earlier in the day, O’Brien qualified for Saturday’s mile run final with a personal-record time of 14:12.91. O’Brien ran a steady pace, sitting in third- and fourth- for the majority of the race. After narrowly avoiding a fall by a fellow runner, O’Brien turned on the jets around the final curve and coasted to the second-heat victory by 0.39 seconds.
It was a personal-best by 0.53 seconds and was the fifth-fastest time of the day, earning him the second position in the final.
“Austin did what he needed to do,” said Dunham. “It was a great effort and puts him in a good position heading into the final. He’ll have to run well, but he has as good of chance as any.
“I’m excited to see what happens for him.”
The mile final is the first track event scheduled at 1:30 p.m.
Horton will also compete in an individual event final, the 3,000-meter run, Saturday at 4:25 p.m. There were no preliminary races for the event.
“We’re really excited about the 3,000-meter run,” Dunham said. “There are so many good runners in that event. It’s definitely a loaded field. The top distance runners in the country will be running against each other and Eli is one of them. He deserves to be there.
“It’ll be a great day.”
Davis sets speed record in prelims—Sprinter Abi Davis (sophomore, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS), competing in her first national meet, broke the school record in the 60-meter dash in 7.60 seconds, winning her prelim by 0.053 seconds. It bested the previous program mark of 7.7 set by Felicia Coleman last year and is the top-seeded mark entering Saturday’s final.
The 60-meter dash final is scheduled for 3:25 p.m.
“It was a perfect example of someone having complete control over the situation,” said Dunham. “Abi was relaxed and ready to go and it showed. She ran a great race, but there’s still work to be done. She’s capable of being a national champion.
“I’m very excited for her.”
Davis followed up that performance with another personal record in the 200-meter dash prelims, crossing the line in 25.24 seconds, but did not advance to Saturday’s final.