MEET RECAP: 2021 NAIA Men’s Indoor T&F Championships

In a thrilling team battle, Indiana Tech regained the men’s crown at the 2021 NAIA Indoor Track & Field Championships that concluded Saturday at the Ruth Donohue First Dakota Fieldhouse in Yankton, South Dakota.

The team race was amazingly close as the meet wound to its conclusion. The final session had six events and the team lead changed after all six – with four different programs continually swapping the lead.

In the end, it was top-ranked Indiana Tech on top with 51.5 points, just ahead of second-ranked Dordt (Iowa) with 47. The winning margin of 4.5 points was the meet’s closest since 2011, when 3 points separated the top two.

Rounding out the the top-5 was Oklahoma City with 42 points, Indiana Wesleyan with 39 and Marian (Ind.) with 34.5. IWU led with three events to go, with OCU in control with two events to go.

While the Warriors reclaimed the championship trophy it last held in 2019, Dordt’s runner-up finish was the best in program history. Dordt held the lead until the last event.

Indiana Tech came through in the final two events, winning the 4×400-meter relay and taking third in a crucial triple jump with Neville Smith, who improved on all six of his attempts. Anchoring the Warriors on the relay was Jordan Highsmith, who finished in a fourth-place tie in the 200 earlier in the meet.

Matthew Van Eps of Dordt (Iowa) was one of four former winners to regain titles. Two others repeated from last year – Reggie Mouton of Wayland Baptist (Texas) in 600 and Dylan Kucera of Midland (Neb.) in the shot put. Luke Skinner of St. Mary (Kan.) won the 1000, his first title in this meet since he won the 800 in 2019.

One of the 56-year-old meet’s oldest records fell in the 5000 meters as Zouhair Talbi of Oklahoma City ran 13:44.13. That took more than eight seconds of the previous best of 13:52.15 set by Silah Misoi of Life (Ga.) in 1999. Talbi immediately followed his 5K win by anchoring the Stars to victory in distance medley relay, giving OCU the team lead with two events to go.

The meet’s only double individual champion was Alexander Gray of Warner (Fla.), who claimed both the 60 and 200 meters.

Two programs provided multiple winners. Midland (Neb.) claimed the high jump with freshman Shandon Reitzell immediately after with Kucera’s repeat title in the shot put, and Milligan (Tenn.) swept the mile and 3000 meters with Tim Thacker and Nathan Baker, respectively.