DII Men's Track and Field Championship: Azusa Pacific surge into lead
BRADENTON, Fla. -- It may not last long once the action on the track heats up Saturday at the 2016 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field National Championships, but three All-American performances Friday landed the Cougars on top of the men’s standings heading into the final day of the meet.
Freshman Shakiel Chattoo hung on for second place while senior Justin Balczak claimed third place as he surrendered his national decathlon title to Alaska Anchorage senior Cody Thomas. When junior Miles Poullard cleared his first three heights on each of his opening attempts in the high jump, he ended up securing a third-place overall finish to claim his own All-American award and give Azusa Pacific a 20-point day in the team standings.
The Cougars now have 26 points in the men’s team standings and take a 10-point lead over Ashland and Grand Valley State, which are tied for second place with 16 points heading into Saturday’s action, which features 14 finals.
In addition to the All-American trio of Chattoo, Balczak, and Poullard, Azusa Pacific had four other athletes involved in Friday’s action. Reid finished in 11th place in the decathlon, whileAmber Panapa (discus), Cyinna Booker (triple jump), and Cydnie Jones (200 meters) all competed in prelims but did not advance to the finals of their events. Panapa finished 10th in the discus after she was edged by just three centimeters for the final spot in the finals, while Booker finished 14th overall and Jones was 19th in the 200 meters.
Chattoo’s runner-up finish in the decathlon was worth eight points, and Balczak’s third-place performance added six more for a 14-point total. Poullard added another six points with a third-place finish in the high jump, extending Azusa Pacific’s lead from four points after the decathlon to a 10-point margin with seven of 21 events completed. Grand Valley State and Ashland (Ohio) are tied for second with 16 points, while Tiffin (14 points) and Central Missouri (13 points) are well within reach of making their own run at a national title.
Although Azusa Pacific did not add to its women’s team scoring total on Friday, the Cougars’ three-point total is good for 30th place overall. Updike’s javelin title defense could add to the team total and help the Cougars climb the team list. West Texas A&M (25 points) currently leads in the women’s standings, with Hillsdale just one point behind, and Findlay is in third (19 points) ahead of a four-team tie for fourth with 18 points.
MEN’S DECATHLON RECAP
Chattoo entered the day in second and held on for a runner-up finish, scoring a personal-best 7,348 points to edge Balczak by an 11-point margin. Freshman Corey Reid entered the day in 14th place and maintained his position throughout the next four events before winning the 1500 meters to climb to 11th in the final standings with 6,777 points. Cody Thomas, a senior from Alaska Anchorage, won the event with a score of 7,590 points.
Chattoo’s score was a 172-point improvement on his qualifying score, and Balczak improved his season-best score by 61 points to climb to 23rd on the U.S. national performance list.
Chattoo and Balczak posted the two fastest times in the 110-meter hurdles, with Chattoo running in 14.21 seconds while Balczak posted a season-best of 14.63 seconds. Chattoo followed with another event win, throwing the discus 41.99 meters (137-feet, 9-inches), and Balczak was fourth with a toss of 39.47 meters (129-feet, 6-inches).
All three Cougars safely cleared at least one height in the pole vault, with Balczak claiming the second-best height in the event with a clearance of 4.60 meters (15-feet, 1-inch). Chattoo pulled within 10 points of the leader with a personal-record javelin throw of 58.29 meters (191-feet, 3-inches), which was also his third event victory of the day, while Balczak also notched a season-best mark in the javelin at 51.58 meters (169-feet, 3-inches).
In the final event, Reid recorded a time of 4:29.49 to win the 1500 meters, while Balczak notched a season-best time of 4:48.17. Chattoo’s time of 5:26.01 was just enough for him to hang on for second place.
MEN’S HIGH JUMP RECAP
Poullard made his All-American performance look easy, as he cleared his opening attempts at the first three heights after entering the competition at 2.05 meters (6-feet, 8.75-inches). He was one of 14 jumpers remaining after his first jump, and the field dwindled to 10 after he cleared 2.09 meters (6-feet, 10.25-inches). He was one of five jumpers to clear 2.13 meters (6-feet, 11.75-inches), guaranteeing him an All-American performance.
Because he didn’t miss a jump prior to his three attempts at 2.16 meters (7-feet, 1-inch), Poullard claimed third place over the other two jumpers who also cleared the same height but missed earlier attempts in the competition. Poullard was making his second national championship appearance after competing in heptathlon and high jump at the indoor championships earlier this year, but his third-place finish was his first All-American honor.
A three-time All-American (twice in weight throw and once in hammer), Panapa made her first NCAA championship appearance in the discus and finished in 10th place overall. Needing to finish in the top-nine of the preliminary rounds, Panapa was edged for the ninth spot in the finals by a margin of just three centimeters. Her best throw came in the opening round of competition when she threw 46.59 meters (152-feet, 10-inches) on her opening attempt. Panapa finished third in her flight, but the second flight of throws resulted in seven more ahead of Panapa, dropping her to 10th overall and eliminating her from the finals.
Booker also gave herself an opportunity at the finals by placing fifth in the first flight of the triple jump with a personal-best mark of 12.16 meters (39-feet, 10.75-inches). However, nine of the 11 competitors in the second flight surpassed Booker’s mark to eliminate her from competing in the finals. Cydnie Jones finished 19th overall in the women’s 200 meters, clocking a time of 24.72 seconds.