WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Led by the strength of its sprinters and two first-place finishes by DeJon Wilkinson, Saint Augustine's claimed the NCAA Division II Men's Indoor Track and Field Championship.
The title is the latest achievement in the illustrious history of the famed St. Aug program. The Falcons have won 13 men's indoor crowns and 34 national championships overall under legendary head coach George Williams."It's always a team effort," an ecstatic Williams said. "Every championship is a different championship. I have a good group of kids who believed. When they believe, they can conceive. It was very close, but we pulled it out."
The Falcons scored 84.50 points to earn the title. Adams State was second with 83 points and Ashland finished third with 48 points. In the women's division, Adams State was the winner with 67 points followed by fellow CIAA member Johnson C. Smith with 59 points and Lincoln (Mo.) with 47 points.
The Falcons produced two national individual champions in the running events. Ty'reak Murray won the 60 meter hurdles while Roxroy Cato captured the 400 dash.
Heading into the 3,000, the Falcons had a 12-point lead, but at that point it was still very close. Adams State placed three in the top eight of the 3,000, giving it a slim five-point lead with two events to go. It came down to placement in the men's high jump which was still being contested. Eddie Shelton finished tied for seventh giving him 1.5 points. Adams State's Justin Bethea cleared the bar at 6-11 3/4, giving him a fourth-place finish and more importantly five points.
Once the 3,000 had ended, the Falcons knew all they had to do was win the 4x400 relay. They did so in convincing fashion (3.14.10) to win their signature event and claim the ultimate prize of the national championship.
The Falcons, who entered Saturday with 16 points, got off to a brilliant start. Wilkinson won the triple jump and David Shaw Jr. was fourth to give the Falcons 15 points in the first event. Wilkinson leaped 51-10 and Shaw jumped 49-8 1/2.
"It's been a long time coming," Williams said of Wilkinson, who won the field most valuable player award said. "He's a good kid and he deserves it. Hopefully he continues to have a stellar career."
Then Cato won the 400 dash (47.66) alongside Josh Edmonds, who placed fourth (47.94). Murray won a tight race in the 60 hurdles. He ran 7.78 to hold off Dennis Bain of Claflin, who was second in 7.79. Moussa Dembele of the Falcons placed eighth in the event in 8.72, giving the Falcons 11 more points and moving them closer to Adams State's lead.
Jones, Edmonds and Burkheart Ellis Jr. gave the Falcons their first lead when the trio finished fourth, fifth, and eighth in the 200. The only event left was the 4x400-meter relay and the Falcons won that event in grand fashion.