15 NCAA Div. III individual championships
LINCOLN, NEB.—Central College men’s track distance runners Austin O'Brien (senior, Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley HS) and Eli Horton (junior, Runnells, Southeast Polk HS) each added another All-America accolade to their respective resumes, while women’s track sprinter Abi Davis (sophomore, Des Moines, Dowling Catholic HS) matched their feat at Saturday’s second day of the 2014 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Davis was runner-up in the women’s 60-meter dash, while Horton was third in the men’s 3,000-meter run and O’Brien was eighth in the men’s mile run.
The points earned by Friday’s distance medley relay team, Horton and O’Brien totaled 17, good for 10th in the nation and the third top-10 indoor finish in the past four years. Wis.-La Crosse won the men’s title with 63.5 points, followed by Wis.-Eau Claire with 48.
Davis’ eight points were enough to tie for 23rd in the team standings, the best indoor finish for the Dutch women since 2002 (12th). Wis.-Oshkosh won the women’s title with 61 points, followed by Wis.-La Crosse with 55.
“It was a really fun weekend,” coach Joe Dunham said. “To see our student-athletes perform at this level is really exciting. Credit goes to our assistant coaches on getting our athletes ready to run at an elite level and to our athletes who ran really well.
“We’re bringing home a lot of plaques. It’s tough to become an All-American. It’s a big deal. Dutch fans should be very proud.”
Davis accelerates to All-American status—Davis broke the school record she set in Friday’s 60-meter dash prelims in runner-up, All-American fashion in 7.59 seconds.
The top-three finishers were separated by only 0.02 seconds, with Davis finishing 0.01 seconds behind Nia Joiner of Illinois Wesleyan and 0.01 seconds ahead of Mallory Burnham of St. Thomas (Minn.). All eight runners were within 0.16 seconds of each other.
Davis’ time improved on her school- and personal-record by 0.01 seconds.
“Abi didn’t have the best start to her race, but she still finished second in the country,” Dunham said. “The thing I was most proud of was her ability to deal with the high-pressure situation. She was nervous, but she just ran faster. It was her first national meet and she did well with the Central “C” on her uniform. I couldn’t be more pleased with her effort.”
Dutch distance duo All-Americans again—Horton and O’Brien each earned All-America recognition for the second time this year. The duo also received the prestigious honor after placing fourth and 11th, respectively, at the 2013 NCAA Cross Country Championships while leading Central to a sixth-place team finish.
Saturday, Horton shattered his school record in the 3,000-meter run in 8:14.94 en route to a third-place finish. The top-eight runners were separated by less than 12 seconds, with Horton trailing champion John Crain of North Central by a mere 4.54 seconds.
Horton’s time was exactly seven seconds faster than his former mark set Feb. 21. It’s his second individual men’s track All-America award after his fourth-place finish in the 2013 mile.
“Eli’s plan was to push the pace,” said Dunham. “The top-four finishers at the cross country championships were in the field, which shows how competitive it was. Eli ran a smart race and gave it his all. There was some disappointment because he felt he could’ve run faster, but he’s one of the best distance athletes in the country and he proved it.”
O’Brien was the first to earn the illustrious label Saturday, placing eighth in the mile run with a personal-best time of 4:10.88. Less than five seconds separated the 10 runners with Coby Horowitz of Bowdoin crossing the line in 4:08.40 for the title and the 10th-place finisher coming in 4:12.80.
O’Brien’s time was more than two seconds faster than his previous best and less than one second off the school record.
“Austin ran really well,” Dunham said. “It was a strategic race and he got into a situation where he couldn’t move to the outside lanes and pass. When you finish that close to the front, there’s some disappointment, but it’s extremely exciting for him to be an All-American.
“It was a great experience.”
The NCAA championships wrap the indoor season for the Dutch. Central takes a brief hiatus before opening the outdoor season at the Washington-St. Louis Invitational March 28-29. Seven straight weekends of competition conclude at the Iowa Conference outdoor meet May 8-10 with the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships set for May 22-24 at Delaware, Ohio.
“It’s back to work,” said Dunham. “We have a long outdoor season ahead of us. There’s a lot to be done and we need to start preparing now.”