Division II indoor track and field championship: Familiar contenders seek national title
Adams State track and field coach Rock Light spent most of his coaching career in Division I. After graduating from Adams State and moving onto coaching jobs at LSU, Oregon and Texas Tech, Light returned to Adams State in June 2013.
Taking Adams State to the NCAA Indoor Track national championship this weekend, Light is excited to compete in the Robert W. Plaster Center, Pittsburg State’s home venue and the host of this year’s championship meet. In fact, Light said the arena is a flashback to his days as a Division I coach.
“It feels good being here, it’s a very impressive facility,” Light said. “Coming from a coach who has coached his whole life in Division I, what a great honor for Division II athletes to compete at a facility like this.”
For 2016, the men’s and women’s national title meet transitions from Birmingham, Ala., to Pittsburg, Kans. The Plaster Center is not even a year old, having been finished in spring 2015.
Light’s Adams State team enters the weekend ready to claim its second title in a row in the men’s competition. In the women’s competition, Adams State isn’t a proven contender, but Lincoln (Mo.), Grand Valley State, Central Missouri and Hillsdale are some of the favorites for the title on the women’s side.
In the men’s competition, Adams State looks to repeat. After winning the team title in Birmingham last season, the Grizzlies return three individual national champions. A 2015 national champion in the pole vault, Theo Mancheron of second-ranked Tiffin, returns for his senior year. Tiffin will send 12 men to the national championship.
Grand Valley State and St. Augustine’s will also challenge Adams State for the title. The two schools are ranked third and fourth, respectively. St. Augustine’s is a proven powerhouse in Division II with seven titles since 2001. Grand Valley State enters ranked just ahead of St. Augustine’s at third in the nation.
Grand Valley State will send six individual male qualifiers to the national championship. While Adams State’s strengths lie in its distance runners, Grand Valley State may have an edge in sprint events. The Lakers’ Sean Wells returns to the title meet in search of a second consecutive title in the 60m hurdles.
The St. Augustine’s men enter the national title meet with the top-ranked 4x400m relay team in the nation with Khari Herbert, Jr., Burkheart Ellis, Immanuel Hutchinson and Shaquille Dill. St. Augustine’s coach George Williams has won the highest amount of NCAA championships in the nation and is in search of the eighth of his career.
In the women’s competition, Lincoln (Mo.) enters the weekend as the top-ranked school. Lincoln coach Victor Thomas won the title in 2009 and 2010. His team has finished runner-up twice over the last six years.
Though Thomas had some concerns over his team’s injuries going into the weekend, he said his team is in position to make a run at the title.
“If they come and do what they are supposed to do, and perform like they did two weeks ago, we should be alright,” Thomas said. “We just have to go and execute. If they do their best, we should win.”
Lincoln has four qualifiers in the women’s 60m dash. Ladonna Richards looks to repeat in 2016 for the 60m hurdles title after setting the national record in hurdles at the MIAA conference championships earlier this season.
The host school, Pittsburg State, sends a competitive team to its home venue this weekend. The Gorillas will send 10 individual women’s qualifiers and will compete in the 4x400m relay. Pittsburg State is ranked second nationally.
Going into the national title meet, both the men’s and women’s competitions look to include equal competition between the top schools. Between the first- and second-ranked teams on the men’s side, Adams State and Tiffin, are separated by 32.51 points. The first-ranked Lincoln (Mo.) team on the women’s side is only 37.52 points ahead of Pittsburg State.