Bucs finish 1-through-4 in the 5000m to claim A-Sun Title and post ETSU's record-breaking ninth conference crown in 2009
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (May 16, 2009) - The ETSU men's track and field team made history in more ways than one on Saturday evening.
It was only fitting on the day when the 134th race of the Preakness Stakes was being contested in Baltimore; the Buccaneers completed the "Triple Crown" in The River City, as ETSU took home the 2009 Atlantic Sun outdoor title at UNF's Hodges Stadium. The conference title also marked the first time in ETSU and A-Sun history that a school won a Cross Country and both Track and Field Championships in a single season.
Meanwhile, with the Buccaneer men's team claiming the A-Sun hardware, the ETSU Department of Athletics also made history by claiming its ninth conference championship this season - breaking the school record by one which was set in 2006-07.
It was not easy for the ETSU, but after Kennesaw evened the scoring at 170, the Buccaneers dominated in the 5000m to outlast the Owls - 198 to 180. Campbell rounded things out in third with 104 points.
At the post-race ceremonies three Buccaneer members were honored for all their hard work. First, Hall of Fame Coach David E. Walker won his third Coach of the Year award of the year. Then, after being named Most Outstanding Track Performer in the indoor season, sophomore Ben Ronoh (Sotik, Kenya) pulled off the sweep tonight. Ronoh received the honor after accumulating 26 points during the two-day meet. Finally, senior transfer Heidi Dahl (Orem, Utah) received the same honor on the women's side after finishing first in both the 800m and 1500m.
"First off I want to thank North Florida and the Atlantic Sun for hosting an excellent meet," commented coach Walker.
"I am extremely proud of how our team stepped up and their hard work has definitely paid off in the end. To capture the Triple Crown is such an amazing accomplishment and it's the first time I have ever been a part of this during my 46-year career. It took a total team effort and everyone contributed to making this happen. This also couldn't have been possible without the strong support staff that is built around the track and field program."
The day began in a big way for the Bucs as they executed perfectly in the decathlon and extended their lead from 18 points to 34 over USC Upstate and from 32 points to 54 over Kennesaw State.
Junior Nic Chernikow (Seymour, Tenn.) won six of the 10 events and took home the decathlon crown for the second time in the last three years by setting an Atlantic Sun mark of 6197 points. Joining Chernikow on the medal podium was fellow junior Jordan Briggs (Erwin, Tenn.). Briggs entered the final five events in third, but by scoring 775 points in the pole vault, the Erwin, Tenn. native moved into second and took home silver with 5651 points. Rounding out the ETSU scoring attack was freshman Will Shackleford's (Clarkesville, Tenn.) four-point effort by finishing with 5200 points.
ETSU's scoring chances continued to land in, as sophomore Mike James (Palm Bay, Fla.) stepped off the track and into the field event - high jump. James scored four points after finishing fourth with a personal-best mark of 6-02.75 (1.90m). The Palm Bay, Fla. native was also busy on the track, as he turned in scoring performances in both hurdle events. James set a lifetime and regional qualifying mark in the 110-meter hurdles (14.10, second place) and finished fourth in the 400-meter hurdles (55.81).
Back on the track, Ronoh eased his way to the title in the steeplechase by turning in a time of 9:20.17. Ronoh became the first Buccaneer runner to claim the title in the event since joining the A-Sun and the first ETSU athlete to win a conference title since Declan Fahy won the SoCon crown in 1997. In addition, junior J Penny (Jonesborough, Tenn.) reached the medal stand by finishing third after clocking in at 9:34.17.
The Buccaneers hit the century mark (104 points) following their second-place effort in the tight 4x100-meter relay. After the close finish, ETSU looked to have taken a commanding lead over USC Upstate and Kennesaw State. The Bucs, who turned in a time of 41.41, led the Spartans by 46 points and the Owls by 59.
However, the Owls didn't back down and evened the score at 170 after the 200-meter dash was completed.
Fortunately, for the Bucs, the distance runners who captured the 2008 Cross Country title in Macon, Ga., stepped up in the 5000m to bring the title back to Johnson City. With their Buccaneer teammates cheering from the stands, ETSU finished one-through-four in the event, as Kenneth Rotich (Nairobi, Kenya) capped off the sweep in the long distance races by winning his second straight title with a conference record time of 14:36.13. Ronoh along with seniors Jeff Crane (Taylors, S.C.) and Michael Deren (Blasdell, N.Y.), finished second, third and fourth (in that order), respectively.
"I am very proud on how our distance runners went 1-through-4 in the 5000m," said Walker. "The four runners laid everything out on the track and proved they were the top runners in the event. Ben was running his third race of the meet, and to come away with a second-place finish speaks volumes. Kenneth was also solid in both distance races this weekend and he continues to impress in every race. Finally, to have Jeff (Crane) and Michael (Deren) show their courage and strength was a perfect way to end their season."
In addition to the men's distance runners, sprinter Duronal Monal (Belle Glade, Fla.) gave the Bucs a huge lift by sweeping both the 100m (10.50) and 200m (21.34).
Monal became the first sprinter to sweep both events since former Buccaneer standout James Rainer accomplished the feat in 2006 and 2007. The Belle Glade, Fla. native is also the second athlete to win both the 100m and 200m events, while becoming the third sprinter in conference history to win the 100m twice.
Senior Josh Cloyd (Telford, Tenn.) - who battled through a treacherous leg injury yesterday to score in the long jump - decided to brave through the elements and help his team with an incredible second-place finish in the triple jump. Battling primarily on one leg, Cloyd closed out his collegiate career with a leap of 47-06.50 (14.49m).
Also on the field, the Buccaneer throwers pitched in with 25 points combined in the discus and javelin. Junior Jarrod Burton (Bastian, Va.) placed second in the javelin (166-05) and fourth in the discus (145-06), while freshman Cornell Sneed (Miami, Fla.) medaled in the discus. Sneed finished second after letting one fly 146-05 (44.64m). In addition, sophomore Matt Baum (Frederick, Md.) scored two points, freshman Justin Burton (Bastian, Va.) scored one point in the javelin, and Aaron Cagle (Cleveland, Tenn.) recorded a two-point effort in the discus.
On the women's side, the Lady Bucs totaled 66 points on day two to finish fourth with 78 total points in the two-day event. Jacksonville, who was trailing when entering the final day, scored a meet record 212 points to claim its fourth straight outdoor title.
Senior Heidi Dahl (Orem, Utah) highlighted the Lady Bucs on day two by continuing her record-breaking ways on the track and helped score 20 points for the Lady Bucs. Dahl, who won both the 800m and 1500m events, set new conference marks in both events. The Orem, Utah native blasted Campbell's Alicia Valtin 2004 A-Sun record by 12 seconds after being timed in 4:18.08. Then, an hour and a half later, Dahl broke the second conference mark - turning in a mark of 2:08.99 - which broke Shana Ely's (Samford) nine-year-old record of 2:11.53.
"I was very excited to see Heidi get the Most Outstanding Track Performer honor," commented associate head coach Michelle Byrne. "Her three performances were national caliber efforts and I think everything is clicking at the right time for her. Now I hope she carries this momentum into the regional meet in a few weeks and sees great results from there."
Unfortunately, senior Judy Johnson (Knoxville, Tenn.) - who was a potential threat to sweep both short sprints events - went down with an apparent leg injury in the start of the 100m and missed out on any scoring possibilities.
"It was devastating to see Judy go down like that in the 100m," commented Byrne. "Judy had potential to win both sprint events, and to see a senior miss out on a chance like that is hard to take. Our goal is to have her come back healthy and compete at the regional meet in two weeks."
With Johnson going down, senior Nae-Nae Bailey (Statesville, N.C.) prolonged her track career by setting a regional qualifying mark in the 100m. Bailey ran a season-best 11.74 in the event and advanced her way to the MidEast Regional in Louisville. Furthermore, Bailey scored 10 points in the 200m by sprinting her way to the title in 24.23.
"Nae-Nae overcame a difficult season but she kept on working hard and believing," commented Byrne. "It was rewarding to see her turn in a regional qualifying mark in the 100m and I was very proud to see her come away with such great performances."
The Lady Bucs managed to save their best for last, as ETSU blitzed its way to the crown in the 4x400-meter relay - setting a new A-Sun record and school record with 3:46.14. The foursome of Jasmine Ingram (Frederick, Md.), Ashton Bishop (Gate City, Va.), Dahl and Bailey all contributed in the record-breaking race.
Bishop also gave ETSU a scoring effort when her time of 1:03.65 in the 400-meter hurdles was strong enough for a fourth-place effort. Bishop and the Lady Bucs also scored and medaled in the 4x100-meter relay.
Freshman Lili Barboza (Oxford, Ala.) turned in a scoring performance in the javelin after placing fourth as well.
Members of the Buccaneer track and field team will return to action on Friday, May 29, when they head up to Louisville and compete at the NCAA MidEast Regional.
For more information on Buccaneer track and field, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.