ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Navy pulled off an improbable comeback and won the 2011 Patriot League Indoor Track and Field Championship on the final event, the 4×400 relay, on the final day of the league meet on Sunday in the Wesley A. Brown Field House.
Navy trailed Army by 32 team points with four events remaining (pole vault, 3,000, distance medley relay, 4×400 relay) in the championship. The Mids won the pole vault and the 3,000 and picked up huge points, outscoring Army 30-0 in the two events to enter the final two relays down just 2 points. Navy then won the DMR and Army placed second to set up the final event, the 4×400, with Navy and Army deadlocked at 161-161.
Junior Alexander Jackson ran the opening leg and handed the baton over to sophomore Kolton Kempel with a slight lead over Army’s first runner. Kempel ran a strong second leg and opened an even larger lead on Army and the field before handing the baton to senior David Ash. Army struggled with the handoff to its third man, and a stumble allowed Navy to open an even larger lead, with the Black Knights falling to the back of the race. Ash then handed the baton off to anchor Matthew Evers with a 20-meter lead over Bucknell’s team. Evers ran out ahead all by himself on the final two laps to come in at 3:17.40 and clinch the team championship for Navy. All four of Navy’s runners ran 49 second splits on their 400-meter legs. Army would place fourth in the event.
“We went to our kids in the 4×400 and told them they have to give full effort and to take Army out of the race early, because we knew they had a real fast guy on the anchor leg. If you do that, then we will have a chance, and that’s what they did,” head coach Stephen Cooksey said. Cooksey was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year for the fifth time in his career following the meet.
“That last race was pretty stressful, but at the same time, that’s why we all run – for that excitement,” Ash, the team captain, said. “When it all comes together and you end up winning the meet like that – that is the best part about track for me. The whole field house just erupted during those last two relays and that was exactly what we needed.”
To set up the final showdown, the Mids had to get some standout performance to recover from the 32-point deficit.
Cody Rome dominated the field in the 3,000-meter run, as he posted a new Patriot League Championship record time and PR of 8:07.51. Rome’s time was also a new field house record. Junior Kenneth Bunnell also added four points in the event with a fourth place finish of 8:18.38.
“It feels great,” Rome said. “Everyone did an amazing job this weekend. Good things happen when everyone comes together and does what needs to be done.” Rome finished nine seconds in front of the second-place finisher, Colin Eustis of American.
Freshman Ryan Kochert won the pole vault with a clear of 15-9 and junior Nathan Woodason placed third with a clear of 15-3. The Mids were able to garner 16 team points in the event, which was scored just before the distance medley relay.
Navy then entered the distance medley relay down two points to Army, 153-151.
“A point here and two points there could be the meet,” Cooksey said. “We wound up down quite a bit, but we were able to get the points in the pole vault and 3,000 and Army didn’t get any and all of a sudden it was a two-point meet.”
Navy’s Jeremy Haney ran the opening leg of 1,200 and came into the first baton hand-off with 10-meter lead. Junior George Stevenson then ran the second leg of 400, but Army was able to get back into the race and hold a small advantage. Rome took the baton down 10 meters for the 800 leg and passed Army’s man and took a comfortable lead into the final handoff to senior Andrew Hanko who cruised on his 1,600-meter leg to come in first at 9:56.23, a new field house record. Army placed second in the event, which set the stage for the 4×400 battle.
Rome played a vital role in the DMR win, which was even more impressive considering he had just ran his record-breaking 3,000 performance less than an hour before the relay started.
“I thought our biggest problem would be getting Cody Rome ready for the DMR coming back off that 3,000 on a real short rest,” Cooksey said. “But [distance coach] Al [Cantello] said Rome would handle 800 meters easily.”
“I went and did an easy eight-minute warm down run outside, I came back in and got someone to roll out my legs with the roller stick to get some of the lactic acid out, get some fluids and carbs to replenish and did some stretching to prepare for the DMR,” Rome said. “I really didn’t feel too bad after the 3,000 so I was ready.”
Earlier in the day, the Mids got off to a great start by going 1-2-3 in the mile run. Junior Dominic Della Pelle won the event with a 4:09.66 and Hanko was right behind him to place second at 4:09.71. Haney came in third place at 4:10.09 and let Navy rack up 24 points to widen its lead on the rest of the field.
Along with running the anchor on the championship-clinching 4×400 team, Evers also won the 500m earlier in the day with a time of 1:04.24. Kempel and Jackson also did well in the 400-meter dash. Kempel placed third (49.33) and Jackson was fourth (49.42).
Sophomore Mitch Simmonds was third in the 60m hurdles at 8.25. Freshman Brett Bogaard scored in the 200m dash with a fourth-place finish of 22.30 and Ash placed fifth in the 800m run at 1:54.43.
Navy had two throwers score in the shot put as Jeffrey Steinmetz was fifth (49-6¼) and Chris Boniwell was sixth (48-11).
This is Navy’s fourth Patriot League Indoor Championship and first since 2008. The Mids entered the weekend with a No. 4 ranking in the USTFCCCA Mid-Atlantic Region Poll. The Mids will next head to the IC4A Championships in Boston March 5-6.
Individual champions are also designated as first-team all-league performers. Runner-ups are designated as second-team all-league performers.