Men’s 4×400 squad edges MIT for 6th at NCAA Championships

The 4×400 meter relay put an exclamation point on the men’s indoor track season with an All-American performance at the Div. III NCAA Championships in Naperville, Ill., last weekend. Their sixth-place finish wrapped up 45th place for the Ephs, concluding an indoor season that saw the track and field team place fourth at the Div. III New England Championships and add a new school record in the 4×800 meter relay. The University of Wisconsin at La Crosse took home top honors at the meet.

The team of Jabulani Blyden ’13, Kevin Persons ’16, Manny Daring ’15 and tri-captain Chris Fogler ’13 made the midweek trip to North Central in preparation for Saturday’s race. The newly constructed Al B. Carius Track promised fast times, and the Ephs expected fierce competition from the nation’s top teams.

Blyden led off for Williams, which raced out of a loaded first heat. Despite getting cut off early on, he handed the baton off to Persons right in the thick of the race. The first-year continued to battle for the Ephs and made up some ground on the leaders. Daring sped around the track as the third leg and put Fogler in the position to cement an All-American finish. When Fogler crossed the finish line, the team had bettered their seed with a time of 3:17.89. After anxiously awaiting the results of the second heat, the Ephs took sixth place and a position on the All-American podium. The University of Wisconsin at Eau-Claire edged Ohio Wesleyan for the 4×400 relay title, while the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse took home the overall team title by a 34-point margin.

“It was awesome to see the 4×400 relay mix it up with division’s finest and set a seasonal best when it matters most,” tri-captain Scott Rodilitz ’13 said. “Especially given the disappointment of missing out on an All-American finish last year in the same event, I was excited for those guys and for our team. Keeping their rival squad from MIT off the podium made the performance even more exciting, given that they edged us the last time the two relays squared off.”

The Ephs now head to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for the annual spring break trip. Using the trip as a catalyst for the upcoming outdoor season, the team plans to race at the University of South Carolina on March 22 and the Raleigh Relays on March 29.

Despite a sudden coaching change and a thinner squad, the Ephs outperformed expectations in the indoor season and are optimistic about the outdoor campaign. “It is always good to come out and compete well indoors,” Rodilitz said. “But it is also important to maintain a long-term approach in order to continue to succeed in the outdoor season. So I am pleased with the indoor season, but I’m happier with where we are as a team heading into the outdoor season.”