Champion has something to prove
By Jeff Hawkins
Special to NCAA.com
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Already a two-time national champion, Indiana (Pa.) junior Nafee Harris entered the Division II Track and Field Championships in the men's long jump with an additional edge. When does a defending champ have anything to prove? When he fouls out and fails to place during a conference meet. "I put a lot of pressure on myself," said Harris, grinning. "I came back angry."
Harris took out his frustration on the competition, leaping 26-1 1/2. He won last year with a jump of 26-1. The title was Harris' third and his second this year, as he claimed the 2010 indoor honor at 25-7.
Halting abruptly and watching what proved to be his personal-best hammer throw, Ashland's Ryan Loughney released a thunderous yell. He had a lot to scream about with a winning toss of 218-6. Runner-up as a freshman, he was nearing the elusive championship as a sophomore.
"I came back hungry," Loughney said. Loughney stopped short of predicting a repeat performance in '11. "I just want to keep progressing the way I have been," he said.
Highlighting his duel with Hillsdale rival Jason Stomps, Loughney recorded personal bests on successive throws Thursday. Now that his title is secure, Loughney plans to take it easy the next two days.
"I'm a one-trick pony," said Loughney, the first event champion in 2010. "I'm just going to hang out and cheer on my teammates and friends so they can do their best."
Describing the year he enjoyed, Stomps selected an obvious word: "Incredible."
Who could debate? Over the last few months, after completing a rigorous workout regimen, Stomps earned a weight-throw national indoor title and a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference outdoor hammer title, overcoming Loughney. "We had good competition," Stomps said.
It could be considered "incredible" that Stomps was able to compete at all this year.
A year ago, Stomps was felled by what coach Bill Lundberg called a "rare case of pneumonia," which kept him stationed in intensive care for 14 days and in a hospital for 17.
"I lost 40 pounds," said Stomps, the first Charger to earn a Division II title. "It was close to my 21st birthday, and I got real sick."
Stomps started his comeback in January, culminating in his "incredible" senior success.
In the women's hammer throw, Northern State senior and '09 runner-up Amanda Madden claimed the national title, holding back rising Grand Valley State freshman Liz Murphy.
Madden, who also earned a national title during the indoor championships in March, won with a toss of 192-7. Murphy's best effort was 181-8.
"It was a nice way to end an outstanding senior year," Madden said.
As a volunteer running coach for young girls, Queens (N.C.) University senior Tanya Zeferjahn takes time to make a difference. The roles were reversed Thursday night.
The "Girls on the Run," a group of girls aged 8-11, were among the most vocal at Irwin Belk Track Complex as Zeferjahn became the first women's 10,000-meter runner since 1997-98 to claim consecutive titles at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
"They were cheering me on," said Zeferjahn, whose time was 34:46.59. Immediately after the awards ceremony, Zeferjahn sprinted into the stands to celebrate with her fan club. "I have a lot of people here ... friends, family," said Zeferjahn, who attends a cross-town college. Zeferjahn's story was but one that started to unfold during the opener of the three-day event at Johnson C. Smith University.