Five qualify for nationals at Dr. Keeler Last Chance

By Karl Striepe

The popular Division III “last chance meet,” North Central College’s Dr. Keeler Invitational, was broken up into a two-day schedule this year, in a change from their traditional meet format. Several of the field events and longer-distance races took place on Thursday night, while the rest of the events took place the following evening.

The result was a less festive but far more organized track and field meet that helped foster far more impressive performances.

That was true especially for the Maroons, as five individuals—fourth-years Tom Haxton, Patrick Sullivan, and Adeoye Mabogunje and second-years Teage O’Connor and Jessica Winter—all surpassed NCAA Division III qualifying standards.

Haxton, who already holds the second-fastest time in Division III in the 10K this season (29:52.59), placed second in the 5K with a time of 14:29.33. The mark barely missed the automatic qualifying standard of 14:26.00 but was enough to place him fifth in Division III in the event and on track for nationals.

Sullivan, who finished third in the Division III Indoor National Championships but who had struggled so far this outdoor season, finished third in the 1500 meter with a breakthrough time of 3:50.35. The mark bettered the automatic qualifying standard of 3:50.60 and rocketed him up into the third position in the D-III standings.

But the performance of the meet for the Maroons belonged to O’Connor, who met his first Division III qualifying standard in the 3000-meter steeplechase. O’Connor finished eighth in the race with a time of 9:18.80, well under the provisional standard of 9:23.50. He stands 18th in the division and will need to improve on his time to have a chance of qualifying for the meet.

“I could not have been more pleased with the performances of [Haxton, Sullivan, and O’Connor],” head coach Chris Hall said. “This should be a great confidence-builder for all of them. Teage needs to run just a few seconds faster to get into the steeplechase, but Patrick and Tom will definitely qualify. The nice thing about Tom’s race was that, in the process of qualifying for the 5K, he beat the one runner with the better time than him in the 10K nationally.”

Meanwhile, it was business as usual for Mabogunje, who already holds the top position in the triple jump (15.01). He won the triple jump competition easily with a distance of 14.83 meters, just missing the automatic qualifying standard of 14.90 meters.

Lastly Winter, who has already met the provisional qualifying standard in the 1500-meter run with a time of 4:40.11 at the UAA Championships, again met the standard and almost equaled that earlier time, finishing sixth in a time of 4:40.90.

First-year Andrea Keliiholokai also had a strong meet for the Maroons, finishing fifth in the 200-meter dash in 25.83 seconds and then 10th in the 100-meter dash in 12.85 seconds.

Also running well in the women’s meet, third-year Erin Steiner placed ninth in the 5K in a time of 18:08.08. She was followed by first-year Dilshanie Perera (13th,18:32.23), fourth-year Darcy Flora (15th,18:39.53), and fourth-year Amanda Parrish (16th,18:42.01), all running personal-best times.

Third-year Seyi Oyenuga and second-year Brett Peterson both competed well in the jumping competition for the men’s side. Peterson placed ninth in the triple jump with a distance of 12.88 meters, while Oyenuga finished 11th in the long jump with a distance of 6.33 meters.

Both the men and women will race again this weekend at the North Central Last Chance Invitational in the last meet before nationals. The Division III national meet will take place May 27 through 29 in Decatur, Illinois.