MEET PREVIEW: 16 Individual Champs Return For NCAA DII ITF Championships
NAPERVILLE, Ill. – If you feel like you’re experiencing déjà vu this weekend when watching the 2017 NCAA Division II Indoor Track & Field Championships, set for March 9-11 at the Birmingham CrossPlex, it’s because this year’s field is eerily similar to last year’s.
Of the 30 total events in which men’s and women’s athletes will compete in the hopes of becoming a part of history, 16 of them will feature last year’s champion. That means over half of the 2016 NCAA Division II Indoor Track & Field Championships could see repeat winners.
Compared to the Division I Championships, which will see 12 of 30 individuals return to defend their title, as well as the Division III Championships, which features only six returning champs, the NCAA Division II Indoor Track & Field Championships should feature plenty of drama in the individual events.
Two athletes could make it a three-peat this weekend in Adams State’s Oliver Aitchison and Winona State’s Kaitlyn Long. Aitchison has won the last two indoor mile titles, but his top time of 4:01.32 on the season is just .45 seconds faster than teammate Jackson Sayler’s. Long’s top weight throw mark on the season of 22.38m (73-5¼) is the 2nd-best mark in Division II history, and nearly a half meter further than Chadron State’s Mel Herl.
Should Aitchison pull off the three-peat, he will become the first Division II mile runner to do so, as well as the 11th male to do so in any event at the Division II level. Long would join Ashland’s Becky Ball (1996-97-98) as the only women to three-peat in the weight throw, and could become the 11th woman to do so, regardless of event.
While the two aforementioned athletes who are set to compete this weekend are looking to etch their names into the record books, a slew of other performers hope to relive the championship experience they went through a year ago.
Mobolade Ajomale became the 1st 60 meter champion in the history of Academy of Art last season, but he will face stiff competition in Birmingham. The Canadian’s season-best time of 6.64 is just a hair ahead of Shorter’s Lester Miller (6.67) and Tiffin’s Reginald Thomas (6.69). However, should Ajomale fail to defend his title, he has an extremely solid chance to win in the 200 meters, where he set the all-time Division II mark this season with a time of 20.85.
The 60 meters on the women’s side also features a returning champion in Queens (N.C.)’s Nikia Squire. However, unlike her male counterpart in the event, Squire sits at 6th in the Descending Order List heading into the meet. Texas A&M-Kingsville’s Deana Richardson owns a time of 7.40 on the year as the pacesetter in the event.
Texas A&M-Commerce’s Luis Romero and Cedarville’s Carsyn Koch both hope to repeat in the 800 meters. Koch heads into the meet with the top time in Division II, but Romero is not so lucky, as Franklin Pierce’s Dage Minors and Fort Hays State’s Brett Meyer sit above him on the Descending Order List.
Carly Muscaro of Merrimack not only leads the pack in the 400 meters, an event in which she won 1st last year, but she also owns the top time in the 200 meters ahead of the championships this weekend. She alone could put Merrimack in a position to finish amongst the top-10 teams
Myles Hunter of Minnesota State may face the most uphill battle to win another title. After winning the 60 hurdles a year ago, Hunter sits at 11th place on the Descending Order List and .22 seconds behind Division II leader Marshawn Scott from Limestone.
Sydney Gidabuday is the only repeat champion in two events this year, as he won the 3000 and 5000 meter races last season. Fortunately for the Grizzlies of Adams State, the native of Orange, California, has posted the top time in the 3000 meters in Division II this season, as well as the 3rd-best mark in the 5000 meters. Missouri Southern’s Vincent Kiprop has a legitimate shot to unseat Gidabuday in the latter event.
In the field events, the returning women’s champions enter with what seem to be a better chance of repeating than the men. Stachia Reuwsaat from Chadron State will look to repeat in the long jump, and does enter with the top mark on the season. High jumper Natalie O’Keefe of Southwest Baptist also has the Division II leading mark in her respective event. Both, though, will square off against solid competition, especially Reuwsaat who has to compete against West Texas A&M’s Rellie Kaputin.
Long jumper Sedeekie Edie of Lincoln (Neb.) and triple jumper DeVontae Steele from Texas A&M-Commerce are returning champs, but both sit further down the Descending Order Lists than they probably would like. Both rank 4th in their respective events. Fellow field athlete Jordan Crayon from Ashland ranks 3rd in the weight throw – behind teammates Daniel Roberts and Alex Hill – despite claiming the title a season ago.
Lastly, Azusa Pacfic’s Shakiel Chattoo returns in the heptathlon after becoming the 2nd Cougar in a row to win the event championship at the DII finals. Fans should look for him to possibly repeat, but shouldn’t be surprised if national leader Tanner McNutt supplants him, as his season-best point total of 5443 is 28 points better than Chattoo’s.
Be sure to check back throughout the weekend as we bring you more coverage of the 2017 NCAA Division II Indoor Track & Field Championships on USTFCCCA.org.