JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 27, 2010) - Duronal Monal (Belle Glade, Fla.) did everything he could to try to lift the ETSU men's track and field team to its fourth Atlantic Sun Indoor Championship; however, when it was all said and done the Buccaneers' lost the conference crown to Kennesaw State by the slimmest of margins.
After entering the day with a 23-point lead over Kennesaw State, the Bucs saw their margin slowly fade away to the Owls. With 16 events scored, ETSU trailed Kennesaw by two points heading into the 4x400m relay - meaning the Bucs needed to finish first to earn at least a share of the conference crown.
That's when Monal looked to carry the Bucs on his back and track down KSU's Ethan Kasson in the final leg of the relay; however, as both athletes lunged across the finish line the Owls nipped ETSU by two-hundredths of a second for the title - 3:15.67 to 3:15.69.
When all the dust settled and the sweat still soaking on the track, Kennesaw State edged out the Bucs by four total points - 187 to 183.
"You couldn't have asked for a better championship," said associate head coach Michelle Byrne. "When two days of events come down to the last race; it says a lot about both our team and Kennesaw State. Our kids laid it on the line today. I think what I'm most proud of is the fact that when one person struggled in an event, someone else on our team was able to step up and get the job done.
"In the 4x400m, I thought Robert (Purcell) ran an outstanding leg to get us back in the race," said Byrne. "We have a young team and besides coming so close today; the thing I'll take from this is how our team rallied around each other after losing. When you lose such a close championship it can do one or two things to your team - and instead of this tearing our guys apart - the entire team was right there after the race bonding together. Now we just need to use this as motivation when we head into the outdoor season. This can be the fire that burns inside us every day, as we work on getting stronger."
After the competition was settled, Monal came away with two top honors at the awards ceremony - Most Valuable Performer (overall points) and Most Outstanding Track Performer. The Belle Glade, Fla. native put his body through the gauntlet by competing in the 60m, 200m, 400m, and the relay. In total, Monal bagged 23 points, as he claimed conference titles in the 60m and 200m; while finishing with one point in the 400m and two in the 4x400m relay. Monal set a NCAA Provisional Mark and school record in the prelims of the 60 (6.71); while breaking former Buccaneer sprinter James Rainer's conference time in the 200m (21.22) - which also set a provisional mark.
"Duronal simply ran his heart out today," said Byrne. "After he ran the 400m earlier in the day, D managed to come away with provisional times in the 60m and 200m. That's such a hard combination, but yet he was able to bounce back and run strong the rest of the day."
Duronal was one of three ETSU athletes to win titles on the weekend. Joining the senior standout was fellow senior Nic Chernikow (Seymour, Tenn.) and junior Matt Baum (Middletown, Md.).
Baum won the pole vault on Friday and Chernikow captured his second straight title in the heptathlon on Saturday morning. The Seymour, Tenn. native finished with 4,794 points, after winning four of the seven events - 1,000m, 60mH, shot put, and 60m. In total, the Bucs came away with 24 points in the heptathlon, with Jordan Briggs (Erwin, Tenn.) finishing second, Max Lee (Knoxville, Tenn.) fifth and Matt Hill placed seventh.
"In the heptathlon, you can't say enough about the performances of Nic and Jordan," said Byrne. "Both guys are tremendous competitors. I know we were hoping to get Max Lee in the top-three, but I'm extremely proud with how things turned out for both our seniors this afternoon."
Two key turning points in the meet included junior Mike James (Palm Bay, Fla.) being disqualified in the prelims of the 60mH and the performance at the end of the 5000m.
James, who was the top athlete in the hurdles, couldn't even advance to the finals for a scoring chance, and the same occurred for him in the 60m. The Palm Bay, Fla. native managed to come away with points in the 200m (two) and high jump (six).
Meanwhile, the Bucs caught a bad break in the 5000m - which in the end - made the 4x400m that more important to win. Senior Kenneth Rotich (Nairobi, Kenya) scored eight points with his second-place effort, and Ben Ronoh (Sotik, Kenya) provided four points with his fifth-place finish. However, the Owls picked up valuable points at the back end of the race, scoring two for seventh place and Nathan Haskins beating Belmont's Jordan Anderson by seven one-thousandths of the second for eighth and one point.
Other ETSU notables included sophomore Quentin Greenlee (Morristown, Tenn.) finishing second in the 60m (6.85) and the 200m (21.69); while Matt Allison (Fairfax, Va.) and Ryan Beaver (Virginia Beach, Va.) came away with top-three finishes in their respective field events. Allison placed third in the weight (15.18m) and Beaver came finished behind Campbell's Robert Brunson in the triple jump (14.39m) for second.
On the women's side, Jacksonville again cruised its way to a fifth straight A-Sun title. The Dolphins scored 211 points, while Kennesaw State finished second with 154 total points.
The Lady Bucs took fifth after ending the meet with 45 points.
Senior Zachlynn Blackburn (Tazewell, Va.), the lone Lady Buccaneer athlete to capture gold this weekend, won the weight throw with a record-setting toss of 56-02.50 (17.13m). Blackburn's heave set a new ETSU record, as her previous best was 55-07.75.
On the track, junior Jasmine Ingram (Frederick, Md.) posted a second-place effort in the 400m. Ingram clocked in at 56.32 and trailed Jacksonville's Danielle Davenport for the title (55.73). Ingram also ran a leg in the 4x400m relay that finished third.
Freshman Kelly Monteleone (Verona, Pa.) scored three points in the triple jump after finishing sixth with a leap of 37-09.25 (11.51m).
A handful of Bucs will compete in the Virginia Tech Last Chance meet next weekend in Blacksburg. The rest of the team will begin gearing up for the outdoor meet which opens up next month.
For more information on Buccaneer track and field, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.