March 12, 2010

John Oehser, Special to NCAA.com

GREENCASTLE, Ind. - On Friday, Todd Wildman repeated and at the same time, he didn't.

The senior from Trinity University (San Antonio) successfully defended his 2009 pentathlon title at the Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships. But the day in a very real sense wasn't a repeat at all.

A year ago, things almost came easy.

On Friday, Wildman said that was anything but the case.

Wildman led from start to finish and won two of the five events. He paced himself to an eighth-place finish in the last event, the 800-meter dash, but that was plenty to win pentathlon with 3,751 points at Hollensteiner Track at DePauw University.

"Last year, everything seemed to go my way," said Wildman, competing in his last collegiate meet. "This year was more of a struggle. I only had one (personal best) and that was the shot put, of all events.

"This year was more of a scrappy competition - it seemed like everybody was bugged with injuries. Last year, everything was clicking. It was just more of a fight today."

Josh Lovell of Linfield College (McMinnville, Ore.) finished second at 3,664 points.

"Each one's different," Trinity coach Dave Svoboda said. "I think this one for him will be more special in a couple of days when he has a chance to recover."

Wildman failed to qualify later in the day for Saturday's 55-meter hurdles finals, and will compete in the high jump Saturday. He also ran the third leg of the Trinity distance medley relay, which finished second.

Trinity finished the day in second place with 18 points, all of which Wildman scored or helped score.

Wildman, who entered as the pre-meet pentathlon favorite with a qualifying score of 3,876 - 17 points more than the NCAA meet record he set winning last year's title - tweaked his hamstring Friday morning in the 55-meter hurdles, the day's first event.

He won the hurdles with a time of 7:58 seconds. But the hamstring bothered him the rest of the day.

"One of the thing with the multi-events is if you get on a good roll, it's easy to really get rolling," Svoboda said. "I think that's what happened to him last year. He caught that good roll. Today, he didn't catch that. It was the second hurdle and things just kind of took a turn for the worse.

"I'm proud of him, because I think he rebounded from that, and fought through the day. Even when things weren't clicking, he fought through it."

For Svoboda, the key moment of the competition came on Wildman's third attempt at the high jump at 6-4.

"If he had missed that, there was no way he was going to win this competition," Svoboda said. "He dug down and put it together and in even that can be won or lost by a hair, he was able to put it together, get over the height and keep going. I thought there was a lot of adversity within the day of competition and he kept overcoming it.

"For me, my stress level went up and down 20 different times today, whereas last year it didn't change a bit. Once we got through the first event last year, it was like, 'OK, it's rolling.' It was a little bit different feeling for me, and I think for him, too, versus last year at this time."

Despite the hamstring problem, Wildman maintained a lead throughout, then pushed the margin to 127 points after winning the fourth event, the high jump, with a jump of 6-feet-7¬Ĺ. That meant he needed to finish the final event - the 1,000 meters - within 12 seconds of Lovell to secure the victory.

Wildman finished the 1,000 in 2:58.12. just 4.04 seconds behind Lovell.

"He was behind me when we got out there, so I just tried to stay relaxed," Wildman said. "He passed me about the 600 mark. I just kind of stayed with him. I just made sure he didn't get that 12-second gap.

"I just wanted to stay relaxed and stay wherever he was - and if he was out in front of me, just stick where he was and stick that gap. I figured I could keep a good base with him."

And while Wildman didn't match his record-setting day from a year ago, he said in a different and just as real a sense, Friday was equally satisfying.

"I came into this meet kind of feeling the pressure of repeating," Wildman said. "It's nice to know I can handle that stuff and come out on top."