Ephs atop national rankings in three track and field events

Men’s and women’s track enjoyed a break from competition Saturday after a snowfall the previous night blanketed the track at the University of Albany, forcing Albany’s athletic office to cancel the planned tri-meet among the University of Albany, Hartwick College and Williams.

The Ephs got the message at 8:45 Saturday morning, just as their bus was rolling out of Chapin Drive. The team unloaded their gear, went across campus to Weston Field to put in their day’s workout and walked off the lanes into a free Saturday, all before brunch.

The team deserved a brief respite from the otherwise constant grind of the spring schedule. Ephs who compete at the NCAA Div. III Indoor Championships, for example, have one weekend away from racing before everyone packs their bags for spring break and heads to the West Coast to kick off the outdoor season.

Once home again, the squad has only three meets before the championship series commences – the NESCAC Championship arrives April 27 – leaving a hurried window of opportunity for individuals to post the necessary qualifying performances.

When spring break 2002 officially began in Williamstown on March 15, the Ephs boarded a plane for San Diego and spent the next two weeks training in the temperate March desert climate of southern California.

The distance runners canvassed much of the greater San Diego area, including horse trails and golf courses at Rancho Santa Fe, the beach cliff paths at Torrey Pines State Park and the perimeter of Mission Bay. The sprinters, throwers and jumpers spent much of their time on the track at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) on San Diego’s Point Loma.

In the second week, contingents from Middlebury and Colby joined Williams at PLNU, as did Northwestern Nazarene University in Idaho and the sprint team from Brown University. By March 30, Williams names sat atop the national seed lists in three events and have held their ground since the lists were last updated on April 7.

Phenom Dan Austin ’05 currently leads the nation in the discus with a mark of 177’ 4″ (54.06 meters, almost three meters farther than the automatic standard of 51.30m) – for context, a distance roughly the length of a straightaway in Towne Field House. Austin rewrote the school record that Ethan Brooks ’96, younger brother of throws-and-jumps coach Fletcher Brooks, set at 175’ 8″ in 1996.

“He’s got such a wingspan,” captain and All-American thrower Diane Williams ’02 remarked when the entire team, on their last day at Point Loma, lined up at the sidelines to watch Austin work. “When he spins, his arms provide a really long radius, which is definitely what you want. A long radius allows you to put more force behind the disc, and Dan’s strong to begin with, so he just sends it.”

Fellow thrower Trey Wright ’03 is first on the shot put rolls. Wright exploded with a huge personal best on March 30, putting the shot 55’ 1.5″ (16.80 meters, half a meter better than the automatic standard of 16.30m).

Wright, who was an All-American in the shot put indoors this year, also broke the 54’ 6″ school record that Dave Stuhlsatz set in 1999.

At the moment, no one in Div. III is faster over 800 meters than Colleen Doody ’03. Her time of 2:12.25 is almost a second faster than the automatic cut-off. She and captain Janna Rearick ’02 blew through the first 400 meters in 61 seconds and kept pushing, hitting 600 meters in 1:34. Rearick then drifted to the inside of the track and stepped off, while Doody closed the remaining 150 meters alone – and a little confused.

“I didn’t know she was going to drop out,” Doody said after the race, hurrying back to the third turn to find Rearick.

“Coach [Ralph] White wanted me to be Colleen’s rabbit through 600 meters,” Rearick explained. “But we came through the split so well that I didn’t step out right away – I actually thought about finishing the whole race.”

Had she done so, Rearick would probably have run close to 2:14 and qualified herself for nationals. Nevertheless, she followed directions and took two full seconds off her previous best in the 600 meters (which is an indoor track event, and not run outdoors). “I’m just glad that Colleen hit the time she wanted to. Hey, she’s auto for nationals.”

Austin, Wright and Doody were not the only names to make the board. Kali Gairy ’04 cleared 6’ 7″ in the high jump, giving him a provisional mark with which to start the season.

Meredith Jones ’04 made 11’ 0” in the pole vault, resetting her own outdoor school record of 10’ 6″. Jones was also close to breaking Susan Vaill’s triple-jump record of 36’ 2″ set in 1994. Williams is provisional in the discus at 138’ 8″, and Healy Thompson ’03, 2001 Indoor National Champion in the shot, is second on the outdoor automatic list with her 45’ 11.25″ effort.

The women’s 4×400 meter relay team of Doody, Rearick, Claire Samuel ’04 and Kali Moody ’05 went under the provisional standard with their time of 3:57.04. Doody, Samuel and Moody were all on this year’s All-American women’s indoor distance-medley relay.

Jenn Campbell ’05, the fourth member of the award-winning DMR and an All-American in the 1500-meters indoors, is now on the outdoor 1500-meter list with a 4:42.88.

The team will host the annual Williams Relays at Weston Field on Saturday. More information on the upcoming home meet will be available within the week.