June 8, 2004

National champions! Fourth-years dominate

Fourth-years Tom Haxton and Adeoye Mabogunje became Chicago's first and second athletes in school history to win a national championship in men's track and field this weekend at the 2004 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships, hosted by Milikin University in Decatur, Illinois.

Haxton, who finished third in the event a year ago, won the men's 10,000-meter run on Thursday night in a time of 30:41.09. Haxton had come into the meet with a time of 29:52.95, second only to Matt Edwards of Calvin College (29:49.87).

Haxton described his race as follows: "It was warm, humid, and disgusting so we started off slower than usual. I just tucked in on the rail and ended up nearly in last behind a big train with the Calvin [College] guys. As little gaps formed in the first 5,000 meters, I moved up to the top half.

"At about the halfway point, Dave Berdan from Elizabethtown College [who finished second] jumped out ahead. I let the guys up front reel him back in, and they did so in three or four laps.

"Then with two miles to go, Corey Stelljes, the defending champ, made a strong move at the same point in the race as he did last year. Not wanting to make the same mistake two years in a row, I followed him immediately. Pat Rizzo of North Central College, Matt Edwards of Calvin, and Berdan followed me. I had planned to just kick the last lap, but with 1700 meters left, a good opportunity arose as Stelljes started to slow. I had a bit of a lead on the three behind me, and we were lapping a runner. So I used the lapped runner and Stelljes as blockers and jumped out to the lead.

"I got a few-second lead right away, and each lap for the next four I just told myself to run hard and not look back. On the last lap I started looking back, and I didn't see anything. I guess Berdan could see me, though, and he tried to close. My legs were like jelly over the last 100 meters, and I lost about five seconds of my lead in the last 200 in a combination of my fatigue and thinking it was in the bag due to the announcer calling my name out as I finished.

"But I still had a second left on the lead and time to celebrate at the end, although I think I gave everyone, especially Adeoye, a heart attack.

On Saturday, Haxton finished eleventh in the 5,000-meter run.

Mabojunge was the second Chicago athlete to score gold over the weekend, winning the triple jump competition by an incredible margin of 1'8.5" with a personal best jump of 15.45 meters. He came in as the leader in the event with a mark of 15.43 meters and had improved on his distance three times already, earning him three UAA Athlete of the Week honors.

Two other Chicago athletes also competed in the Championships.

Fourth-year Patrick Sullivan, among the favorites to win the 1,500-meter run, placed 12th in that event with a time of 3:57.35.

Third-year Erin Steiner also placed 12th in the women's 10,000-meter run, finishing with a time of 38:56.35.

The Chicago men placed eighth overall in the team-standings, scoring 20 points. The University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse won the national championship with an impressive 101 points.