March 13, 2010

By Glen Rosales, Special to

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The Adams State men went the distance Saturday in winning the Grizzlies' first NCAA Division II Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Adams State (Alamosa, Colo.) dominated the 1,000- and 5,000-meter runs to finish with 89 points at the Albuquerque Convention Center, ending the four-year reign of St. Augustine's College (Raleigh, N.C.). The Falcons finished second with 72 points, followed by Abilene Christian (Abilene, Texas) with 53.

On the women's side, it came down to the final event, the 4 x 400 relay.

Ashland (Ashland, Ohio), Lincoln (Jefferson City, Mo.,) and Grand Valley State (Allendale, Mich.) entered the finale separated by just three points.

It was the defending-champion Lincoln Blue Tigers who came up with the big effort to race to the title again with 56 points. Ashland and Grand Valley tied for second with 47 points.

"When it came down to the 4 x 4, and we kind of thought it was going to come down to the 4 x 4, we knew we were going come out victorious," said Lincoln's Keniesha Jones.

Repeating as champions was quite a feat for a school that has no indoor facilities, said coach Victor Thomas.

"We have to compete every week to keep the kids in shape," he said. "We had the kids (working out) on the basketball court. So I think it's a great achievement by these kids to come out on top again."

When it came down the last event, however, he was as sure of victory as his athletes.

"Coming into the 4 x 4, they haven't lost all year," Thomas said. "So I wasn't worried."

The Tigers fell behind after the first leg of the race, but they quickly made up the gap to cruise to the victory in a time of 3 minutes, 40.98 seconds.

"We knew what we had to do," said freshmen Michelle Cumberbatch. "We know each other's weaknesses and strengths. No matter what. In the first leg, we were a little behind but because we know each other so well we know how to pick it up in the end and that's how we come out on top always."

For the men, Adams State has been close to winning an NCAA indoor title several times after twice winning NAIA championships.

But the men's side has been dominated by St. Augustine's and Abilene Christian as the two schools have combined to win the past 23 D II championships.

"It's just unbelievably awesome," Grizzlies coach Damon Martin said. "It's history. To be able to crack those guys, we've tried and been second a lot. To be able to do this was just tremendous. For them, the coaching staff, for the alumni that came out support us. I think hosting it and being able to do it here, it's as close to home as we're going to get."

Adam's State owned the mile run, with Aaron Braun winning in 4:07.44 to lead a Grizzlies' sweep of the top five spots for 33 points.

"We knew this was a big event for us if we were going to hold off St. Aug's," Martin said.

Martin praised Braun as a senior who was able to lead is team to victory.

He "won the mile and anchored the distance mile relay, then ran a great, great 5K," Martin said. "And he ran three different mile races in the weekend and came back and ran the 5K. He's one of the most exceptional, phenomenal leaders that we ever had. He's the heart and soul of the team,"

It was much the same in the 5,000-meter run as the Grizzlies earned 32 points, with senior Brian Medigovich taking the tape for his individual championship in 14:28.46.

"I've been wondering through the years if I was going to get one or not," he said. "It's great to go out in my last race and get an individual national championship. So it's been a great meet. It's been perfect. I couldn't have planned it any better."

Individually, Jessica Pixler of Seattle Pacific (Washington) won her fourth consecutive crown in the mile (4:46.42).

"I just knew I needed to run smart," she said. "I feel like I executed my race plan well. It would have been nice to have finished the last two laps a bit faster but I just didn't have a whole lot left."

After running the individual mile twice, as well as once more as the anchor for the victorious distance medley team, the mile-high elevation took its toll, Pixler said.

"I think running at altitude added a whole different level to it to the difficultly of doubling," she said. "It's just the altitude, you feel nauseous and your head feels lightheaded and all that fun stuff."