Men’s track powers to Little Three crown in final meet at Plansky track

Hosting a meet for the first time in three years, men’s track and field dusted Amherst and Wesleyan to claim a 25th straight Little Three title. The Ephs tallied 169 points to outdistance the Jeffs with 111 points and the Cardinals with 97 points.

Cold weather and gusty winds tested the Ephs, beginning with the 4×100 meter relay. An excellent baton handoff between Kevin Persons ’16 and Nolan Raimo ’16 helped Williams overcome a couple of shaky exchanges to take the victory in 43.11 seconds.

The howling tailwind helped the long and triple jumpers who set a series of personal records and season bests. Raimo launched himself 6.75 meters on his third long jump, qualifying for Div. III New Englands and ECACs. Greg Payton ’14 added a second-place finish for the Ephs with a leap of 6.38 meters. John Martin ’16 bolstered the Ephs’ point total with a close victory in the triple jump. Amherst’s Khalil Fleming challenged Martin with a leap of 12.79 meters, but Martin did him .01 better with a leap of 12.80 meters.

Chris Lee ’14, racing the steeplechase for only the second time, finished in 9:31 and put himself back on the national radar with his performance. Lee sits in 31st on the national Div. III performance list.

Aldis Inde ’15 sparked the Ephs in the 1500 meter. Racing out of heat two, he calmly sat with the leaders for three laps. But with 400 meters to go, the distance specialist showed off another gear and tore away from the field. He sped through the last lap in a scorching 60 seconds to dispatch his competition with a time of 4:01.00. Despite racing out of the slower heat, Inde took third place overall. Tri-captain Scott Rodilitz ’13 ran a 4:02.18, outleaning Chris Cogswell ’14 at 4:02.57 for fourth place.

Stephen Simalchik ’13 had an impressive day in the throws, scoring in four separate events and piling on 23 points for his team. He took first place in the hammer throw at 51.02 meters, first place in the javelin at 55.24 meters, second place in the discus at 40.58 meters and third place in the shot put at 12.40 meters. In only his third competition since returning to the team, Simalchik was the top point scorer for the Ephs.

Demarius Edwards ’14 cleared 1.85 meters in the high jump to lead Williams. Martin took second with a jump of 1.70 meters, and Payton earned third on misses after clearing the same height as his teammate.

Back on the track, Katakyie Ofori-Atta ’16 sped to victory in the 100 meter. Ofori-Atta edged past Raimo to win the race in 11.09. Raimo captured second for the Ephs with his time of 11.31, while Jared Nowell ’15 took third in 11.32.

The Ephs added more points to the board with a sweep of the 110-meter hurdles. Jabulani Blyden ’13 led the finishers with a time of 15.14 seconds, while Laye Samoura ’15 came in second with a time of 15.35. Tri-captain Chris Fogler ’13 took third in 15.37.

Squaring off with Amherst’s All-American Matt Melton, Manny Daring ’15 garnered a Little Three title of his own in the 400 meter. Daring boldly ran away from a stacked field to take a sizable lead on the backstretch. Melton picked up his cadence and slowly closed the gap around the turn, but Daring did not back down and crossed the line in 49.19, a personal record.

Fogler made his last Little Threes a memorable one with a 400-meter hurdles victory in 55.01 seconds. Samoura and Ezequiel Davila ’16 completed the Eph sweep with respective times of 1:00.49 and 1:01.53.

Blyden made his presence felt in an 800-meter showdown with Amherst’s Patrick Grimes. Blyden eventually pulled away to a first place finish in 1:56.70. Andrew Beaudoin ’15 took fifth place in 1:57.95, Nick Wolf ’14 earned sixth place in 1:58.06, and John Sutton ’15 seized seventh place in 1:59.14.

Ofori-Atta tacked on another Eph victory in the 200 meter, gamely competing out of the second heat with a time of 22.66. Daring added a runner-up finish to his 400-meter title by winning the thirrd heat in 22.70.

Williams’ 4×400 meter relay capped a memorable 26 years of racing at the Plansky track with one final title. Fogler easily made up the three-turn stagger, and then Nowell snatched the baton and continued to put distance on his Little Three rivals. Sutton all but sealed the race, allowing Eric Schneider ’15 to anchor the Ephs to the victory.

“It was a wonderful way to ‘retire’ the Plansky Track, with a resounding double victory by our men’s and women’s track and field teams,” Head Coach Pete Farwell ’73 said. “We won in total 30 of the 38 events contested and have lots of momentum to carry us into the NESCAC Championships. The guys came together with strong field event contributions, sprints and hurdles, plus distance running – a complete team competing as one.”

The road gets tougher next week as the men head to Tufts for a NESCAC showdown. Tenth-ranked Bates has its eyes set on a second straight title. “We aren’t the favorites heading into NESCACs,” Rodilitz said. “But we’re excited to compete and catch the deeper teams by surprise. Win or not, we’re confident that we’re going to improve on our seeds, set personal bests and get some national qualifiers.”