MEET PREVIEW: Individual Titles Up For Grabs At NCAA DIII ITF Championships
NAPERVILLE, Ill. – It’s safe to say there will be a changing of the guard in NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field following the 2017 NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships this weekend at North Central (Ill.).
That’s because just six – that’s right, six – of the 30 combined individual champions from the 2016 meet return to defend their crowns. Four of those athletes are men – Parker Witt (200), Ross Denham (400), Luke Winder (pole vault) and Theron Baumann (shot put) – which leaves two women – Daisy Ogede (200) and Amber Williams (triple jump).
When you think about it, all 30 individual titles are up for grabs because there is nothing to say those returning champions will win again, even though all six of those defending titlists are ranked in the top-3 of their event.
Fans are assured to see new champions in the distance races – and that’s a major storyline going into NCAAs. Gone are double winners from last year – Amy Regan and Josh Thorson – and gone is the likely double winner this year, Ian LaMere of UW-Platteville. LaMere, the 2nd fastest man indoors over 5000 meters in NCAA DIII history, was forced to scratch due to a stress fracture.
Six men are entered in both the 3000 and 5000, which could leave the door open for another sweep. Williams’ Peter Hale is the class of the 3000-meter field and is only entered in that event, while Tim Nichols is the top seed at 5000 meters.
On the women’s side, Johns Hopkins’ Felicia Koerner could pick up where Regan left off. Koerner is the top-seeded woman in both the 3000 and 5000 and is the absolute, clear-cut favorite in each event. She holds a 15-second advantage in the 3000 and a 17-second edge in the 5000. Koerner ran the 2nd fastest time over 3000 meters in NCAA DIII history earlier this season.
Celen and Witt could certainly sweep the short sprints as they’ve proven themselves throughout the 2017 season. Celen is a double favorite – and understandably so after clocking some of the fastest times in NCAA DIII history in both events (6th, 200; t10th, 60). Witt is the top seed in the 200 and is seeded just a tick slower than conference rival David Paynotta of UW-River Falls in the 60.
Records could fall in the pole vault as Ithaca’s Katherine Pitman and North Central (Ill.)’s Luke Winder take the runway. Pitman would be looking to improve upon the NCAA DIII indoor record she set earlier this season at the Empire 8 Indoor Championships and Winder is hoping to get on top of the heap after several close calls.
Look for a great duel in the men’s and women’s long jump as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds are separated by one centimeter. The men’s proceedings will feature Jerry Williams of UW-Stevens Point (No. 1, 7.62m/25-0) and Jeffery Barnett of Trine (No. 2, 7.61m/24-11¾) – both of whom landed on the NCAA DIII all-time list this season. The women’s competition will most likely come down to Amelia Glueck of Illinois Wesleyan (No. 1, 5.91m/19-4¾) and Nneoma Okonkwo of MIT (No. 2, 5.90m/19-4¼).
Pay close attention to what happens in the race for the combined-events title as the top-3 men (Jack Flood, Andrew Barnett and Connor Christopherson) are all separated by 15 points. The difference in the women’s pentathlon is even slimmer as Kylee Bartlett and Maddie Pronovost are only pulled apart by 4 points.
Be sure to check back throughout the weekend as we bring you more coverage of the 2017 NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships on USTFCCCA.org.