As the awards ceremony concluded, Tiffin coach Jeremy Croy hardly looked like a national champion. Decked out in a national champion shirt and hat, Croy was much calmer than his athletes.
And they had a license to be excited. So did Croy. His Tiffin Dragons had just won their first national title in school history. In fact, the Dragons had won their first trophy in school history.
Croy has been with the team since the very beginning. Over the last 16 years, the track and field program’s entire history, support from the university for the program has steadily increased. Croy built Tiffin from the ground up, and now there is no team better.
“We started training in barns and mall areas and outside and didn’t have any facilities for quite some time,” Croy said. ”The school’s just gradually supported us more and more throughout the years. I can’t say enough about the support from our institution.”
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Though Croy was anything but boastful of his team’s success, there’s no doubt he and his coaching staff contributed to it in a big way. To give Tiffin’s men’s relay team a shot at the title, Croy and the staff made an emotional decision.
Tiffin’s relay team went into the final event, the 1600-meter relay, in need of a first place finish in order to edge powerhouse Adams State. After Adams State Sidney Gidabuday won the 3000m run, Tiffin needed a third-place finish for a share of the title, which has only happened once in 1988, and a second-place finish to win it.
Thirty minutes before the relay began, Croy and Tiffin decided to take senior Macerio Clark out of the relay team. He was replaced by Tiffin’s stud: Lamar Hargrove. Hargrove won the 200-meter dash in the competition and now holds the most individual titles for any men’s Division II track athlete.
“They (the coaches) were like ‘We’re sitting in second right now. One thing we can do is get second or we could get first place,’” Hargrove said. “So I was like ‘OK I’m in, this is going to be our first team title.’ There was no other option. Who wouldn’t want to step up?”
Hargrove made good on his commitment to help the team to its first title. He ran second in his relay team and Tiffin placed second in the relay behind Lincoln (Mo.). Tiffin won the team title with a score of 49. Adams State ended up in second with a score of 47.
The two-point win is the smallest margin in a national championship since 2014, when St. Augustine’s edged out Adams State by one point.
The hard work, Croy said, may have already been done before the relay even started. Tiffin made the thirteenth and last spot to qualify for the 1600-meter relay, an event the team has been trying to qualify for nationals in for years.
“I actually celebrated more when it was announced that 13 teams made it [than when our team qualified,]” Croy said. “That was a really important piece to this puzzle was getting the relay team here.”
For program that has only existed for 16 years, and has only been in Division II for eight, plenty of history was made. Plenty of schools at the Division II Indoor Track and Field championships came from stronger winning traditions, but nobody could match the Dragons on the track Saturday night.