March 13, 2010

By John Oehser, Special to

GREENCASTLE, Ind. -- Approaching the final turn, Kyle Brady flashed a smile towards the stands and his teammates on the North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) men's track and field team.

Behind him was widening a gap; ahead, open track and the finish line.

Also ahead of him: Not one national title, but two.

Brady, a senior, pulled away from the field with a strong finish in the men's 5,000 meters. In so doing, he not only won the individual national title, he essentially clinched the Cardinals' men's team title at Saturday's NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships at DePauw University's Hollenmeister Track.

"I looked over and saw all my North Central guys, and that's one thing we really strive on at North Central, is team," Brady said. "I couldn't have done this without any of them."

Brady's clinching run came shortly before the women's 4 x 400 relay, in which Wartburg College (Waverly, Ohio) clinched a second straight team national title.

North Central, which also won the meet-ending 4 x 400 relay (Jon Howard, Jon Caron, Dayton Henriksen and Dan Benton) in a time of 3 minutes, 17.22 seconds, won the men's competition with 52.3 points, well ahead of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (34), Wisconsin-La Crosse (31.5) and Wisconsin-Oshkosh (31).

Wartburg, which overcame a difficult first day, finished with 33 points in the women's meet, just ahead of Oshkosh (29). St. Lawrence (Canton, N.Y.) was next with 24 points, followed by Illinois Wesleyan (21) and the University of Chicago (21).

"That is part of it," said Wartburg coach Marcus Newsom, whose team was a big pre-meet favorite before struggling in several events Saturday. "Athletics is about overcoming adversity, and we overcame adversity this weekend."

Wartburg's women, the defending indoor and outdoor national champions, took the lead Saturday with a third-place finish by sophomore Faith Burt in the 55-meter dash, then lost it when Oshkosh scored 13 points in the shot put. The Knights, which entered with the meet with the No. 1 qualifying time in the 4 x 400, entered that final event needing to finish first or second to win the national title.

With Nevada Morrison giving the taking a quick lead, the Knights never trailed and after solid legs by Jenny Kordick and Chelsey Jacobs, Burt pulled away on the anchor leg to give the Knights the best Division III time (3:48.73) of the season in the event - and the team title.

Not that the Knights knew about the last part.

Newsom said he opted to not tell the team the situation entering the final event.

"I'm glad he didn't," said Burt, running the 4 x 400 anchor for the first time. "It would have brought a lot more stress than what there was already. I had some idea that since it was the last race, we needed to put it all on the line in order for us to come out on top.

"Whatever position my team out me in, I was going to keep it there."

Saturday's final day of the meet also featured two meet individual records.

Delannie Spriggs, a senior from Salisbury (Md.) University, set a track record in the preliminaries of the men's 55-meter dash, then continued a memorable day in the finals, winning in a Division III season best and meet record 6.20 seconds.

Spriggs ran a 6.26 in the preliminary and after watching tape of the race, felt as if he let up late.

"My goal was to win," he said. "Records are made to be broken and you can't take championships away, but I felt like I had the record in me."

Earlier in the day, Anna Heim of Moravian College (Bethlehem, Pa.) won the women's pole vault at 13 feet, 7¾ inches, setting a meet record in the event and becoming the first Division III woman to clear four meters (4.16).

Also in the mid-afternoon, senior Kristen Bates of Messiah College (Grantham, Pa.) won two national titles in a half-hour span. She claimed the 55-meter hurdles with a Division III season-best 8.00 seconds, then clinched a national championship with a ninth-place finish in the 800-meter event-finale in the pentathlon.

She won the pentathlon with Division III season's best 3,555 points.

"I was just grateful I didn't have to run the 800 and go straight to the 55," Bates said.

Bates had finished second in the 55 hurdles and third in the pentathlon at the indoor national championships last year.

"At the beginning of this year, I was going for it," she said. "That was the idea."

Not long after that, North Central - which also got eight key points from junior Dan Benton's second-place finish in the 400-meter dash Saturday and a tone-setting 20.3 points in Friday's pole vault - sensed a chance at victory.

Throughout the 5,000, each time Brady entered the final turn, North Central chanted, "N-C-C, N-C-C," and two laps from the finish, Brady - who finished eighth in the event as a junior - moved toward the lead. He moved into first on the final lap, and a strong finishing kick on the backstretch gave him a solid lead entering the final turn.

"I'm not out there alone," he said. "I'm out there with my 45 teammates, all the fans and all the family that's out there. It makes it a lot easier knowing you're not out there alone.

"That (a national title) is what I was racing for today - all year, all season, today. We just wanted to go out there and compete and do the best we can. It worked out pretty well."

Longtime North Central coach Al Carius makes a point to emphasize team.

"That's what we said last night on the bus, 'This truly is a track and field team," Carius said. "We really had a complete track and field team here. You get here and you might have two or three guys and we had about 15.

"Everybody really has contributed to the process. This was a delightful outcome for us."

Also in the Division III track events Saturday:

  • Junior Nick Guarino, SUNY-Fredonio, won the men's mile in a Division III season's best 4:09.99.
  • Senior Marie Borner of Bethel University (St. Paul, Minn.) won the women's mile for a second time in three years in 4:50.20 after finishing second in the event last season. The time was a Division III season best and a Hollenmeister track record.
  • Senior Edgar Townsend of Greenville (Ill.) College won the men's 55-meter hurdles despite his shoe breaking seconds before the start of the finals. An official gave him a piece of tape, after which he won in 7:46 seconds. "I was worried worried - real worried worried," said Townsend, who also won the outdoor national championship in the event last season.
  • Ben Zill of Wisconsin-Oshkosh won the men's 400 meters with a Division III season-best 48.33.
  • Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Mich.) junior Rachel Boerner won the women's 400 meters with a Division III season-best 55.95.
  • Senior Callen Martin of Wilmington (Ohio) College won the women's 55-meter dash in a Division III season's best 6.98.
  • Junior Aron Kehoe of Wisconsin-Whitewater won the men's 800 meters in 1:52.55.
  • Sophomore Emily Schudrowitz of St. Norbert College (DePere, Wis.) won the women's 800 meters in a Division III season-best and track record 2:09.24.
  • Junior Wendy Pavlus of St. Lawrence won the women's 5,000 meters with a Division III season best 16:59.40.