DELAWARE, Ohio – Four of the five individual championships decided Friday at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field meet went to student-athletes making their first trip to the top of the podium. So many new faces crowding the top of the event results wound up creating a log jam in the team rankings through two days of competition at Ohio Wesleyan.
North Central (Ill.) snuck into the team lead late in the day thanks to sophomore Peter Geraghty’s winning effort in the pole vault. The Cardinals moved to the top of the standings with 32 team points after Geraghty was the only athlete to clear the bar at 5.26 meters (17-3).
“That was the first time this spring I’ve been over 17 (feet),” Geraghty said. “I guess basically I’ve been waiting for the right conditions and tonight the conditions were really good. The winds were perfectly still. It was almost like an indoor facility. It was really beautiful out there.”
Central’s (Iowa) 24 points were enough to eke out second place in the day-two standings and good enough to avoid being entangled in the three-way tie for third. California Lutheran, Wisconsin-La Crosse, and Washington (Mo.) all concluded Friday with 20 points.
Junior Ethan Miller helped give Central its biggest boost by taking the decathlon title. He won the 100-meter dash, long jump, and 110-meter hurdles to accumulate 7,170 points over the two-day competition. At last season’s championship meet, Miller placed eighth in the decathlon.
Miller’s senior teammate, Kurtis Brondyke, finished second as the Dutch swept the decathlon’s top two spots despite opting out of their conference championship meet to rest for nationals.
“We had four weeks off from competition and we trained through it instead of being off-and-on with competition,” Miller said. “I think our coach had a pretty good reason for doing that. (The break) definitely helped us a lot.”
The only repeat titlist on Friday was California Lutheran senior Eric Flores, who won his second throwing championship of the weekend. After winning the hammer Thursday, Flores returned to the ring to take the shot put finals. His duel with Andy Novak, a junior at Wisconsin-La Crosse, came down to the final throws. Novak putted the shot 17.51m (57-5 1/2) on his final attempt, but Flores bettered that effort by one centimeter (17.52m, 57-5 3/4). With those two titles in hand, Flores accounted for all 20 of the Kingsmen’s points thus far at the meet.
Stalemates weren’t limited to the team standings, though, as evidenced by the three-way tie in the high jump which had to be broken by the number of misses the competitors had before clearing the bar. The tight competition brought out the best in Wartburg freshman Jonas Elusme, whose successful first attempt at a height of 2.09 meters (6-10 1/4) made him the title-winner.
“Throughout the day I wasn’t really feeling like jumping,” Elusme admitted. “I wasn’t really in the mood, but seeing (the competition) clear it just helped me step my game up to another level. It just took some focus and determination.”
Two Monmouth seniors matched Elusme’s 2.09m effort, but required more jumps to do so. Tyler Hannam needed two attempts to land cleanly on the mat and took second place, while Nick Byom slotted third after he sailed over the bar on his final try.
Kent Pecora, a Dickinson senior, bested the 19-man field to win the 3,000-meter steeplechase after failing to meet the national qualifying standard one season ago.
“It’s unbelievable really,” said Pecora of his ascent to the championship. “Last year I was in the stands watching the steeplechase and that’s really what motivated me this entire year to give it everything I could.”
The NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships conclude Saturday at George Gauthier Track with the first finals of the day set to begin at noon.