MEET PREVIEW: History Could Be Made At NCAA DIII Championships

The 2017 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships kick off Thursday morning at The SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio.

Forecasts call for rain on Thursday, scattered showers on Friday and partly cloudy skies on Saturday with highs reaching 74 degrees.

If the most recent National Team Computer Rankings hold true, the Rowan men and the Washington (Mo.) women should hoist the team championship trophies high above their heads on Saturday when the meet concludes following the Men’s 4×400 relay at 4 pm ET. The Profs and UW-La Crosse traded the top spot in the rankings throughout the season, while the Bears never lost control since being No. 1 in the preseason.

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What about the individual titles? After all, there are 38 to give out: 19 men’s and 19 women’s.

Well, there are more individual titles up for grabs on the men’s side of things as only 7 men who won NCAA titles in 2016 return to defend their crowns. Those men are Occidental’s Hugh Pegan (200), UW-Platteville’s Ian LaMere (5000/10000), St. John’s (Minn.)’s Ryan Bugler (3000-meter steeplechase), SUNY Cortland’s Nick Cachon (high jump), North Central (Ill.)’s Luke Winder (pole vault) and Whitworth’s Andrew Bloom (javelin throw). Bloom, LaMere and Winder are all seeded No. 1 entering the meet so they have the best chance to repeat in their events.

Over in the women’s championship, there are 10 titles up for grabs as 9 champs from 2016 return to defend their crowns: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps’ Tyra Abraham (100), Ohio Northern’s Emily Richards (800), Stevens’ Amy Regan (5000/10000), Illinois Wesleyan’s Molly McGraw (high jump), Ithaca’s Katherine Pitman (pole vault), Illinois Wesleyan’s Amelia Glueck (long jump), Ithaca’s Brandy Smith (discus throw) and UT Tyler’s Whitney Simmons (hammer throw). McGraw, Pitman, Richards and Simmons have all had incredible years so there is little reason to doubt they won’t add more hardware to their collection and while Regan isn’t the top seed in either the 5000 or 10000, you can never count her out.

One of the biggest story lines going into the meet features the aforementioned Richards and her teammate Matt Molinaro. Both enter the meet seeded No. 1 in the 800 and if they can live up to their billing, they’ll become just the 4th set of teammates to sweep the 800-meter titles at the same NCAA Outdoor Championships. It last happened in NCAA DIII 15 years ago with UW-Oshkosh’s Matt Groose and Liz Woodworth.

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History also awaits LaMere and Winder. If LaMere and Winder capture individual titles in the 10000 and pole vault, respectively, they’ll be the first men in NCAA DIII history to win three consecutive event titles in those events. LaMere should be itching to get back to championship racing after an injury kept him out of the indoor meet.

Pitman isn’t a stranger to history as she’s broken the NCAA DIII record several times this season and currently sits at 4.30m (14-1¼). If Pitman wins her second pole vault title in a row, she’d be just the second woman in NCAA DIII history to do so, joining Laura Rosenberger (2000 and 2001).

UMass Boston’s Wadeline Jonathas has turned heads this year with her speed. Jonathas left her name all over the NCAA DIII record book (No. 1 AT 200, No. 3 AT 100, No. 8 AT 400) and could be the first woman since Rachel Anderson in 2008 to win the 200- and 400-meter titles. If Jonathas wins, it would give UMass Boston back-to-back 400-meter titles after Hurlerie McGuffie won in the 2nd fastest time in NCAA DIII history (53.55).

Jonathas is just one of two freshmen who are seeded No. 1 entering the meet. The other is Luther Newburn of Benedictine (Ill.) in the men’s long jump and he owns a resounding edge over Stockton’s Jared Lewis (15.43m to 15.17m).

There is a lot at stake this weekend and by the end of Saturday, we’ll know the 38 individual champions, the 4 relay champions and the two team champions. Be sure to check back with us on USTFCCCA.org as we bring you daily recaps of what transpires in The Buckeye State.