May 30, 2003

Haxton, Sullivan earn All-American standing at nationals

Canton is not exactly the largest city in New York. So when hundreds of athletes, coaches, parents, and fans began arriving there as early as last Monday for the 2003 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships, scheduled to run through Memorial Day Weekend at St. Lawrence University, Canton began to feel like another small New York town--Woodstock.

And if Canton is like Woodstock, then University of Chicago third-years Tom Haxton and Patrick Sullivan descended upon the town like British rock--they invaded. Haxton and Sullivan combined to earn three All-American awards--Haxton in both the 10K and 5K, and Sullivan in the 1500 meters--and together scored enough points (12) to give Chicago a twenty-third place finish in the final standings.

Haxton began his outdoor campaign on Thursday night in the 10,000-meter final, the first final of the meet. As the race began, a pack of four--Haxton, along with UW-Platteville sophomore Cory Stelljes, Kenne State senior Wilson Perez, and Nebraska-Wesleyan senior Mike Morgan--soon opened up a sizable gap on the field.

They were still together with a half-mile to go when Stelljes broke from the group, leaving Haxton, Perez, and Morgan to fight it out for second. Perez came out ahead in 30:15.51; Haxton was third in 30:17.10, beating out Morgan, who finished fourth in 30:18.49. Stelljes's winning time was 30:09.44.

Doubling back on Saturday in the 5,000-meter final, Haxton then bettered all but five fresh runners to finish sixth in 14:33.28, taking home his second All-American award, given out to the top eight finishers in each event. College of New Jersey senior Nick Ricco won the 5K with a time of 14:23.47.

"[Haxton] ran a career best time in the 10,000 and was able to come back in the 5K a day later and run on the shoulder of the leader throughout the race," Chicago head coach Chris Hall told the Maroon. "He ran out of gas just a little bit in the last 1200 meters, but compared to the other runners that were doubling back, he had a great 5K."

Sullivan, who was fifth at this year's indoor national meet, also began his campaign on Thursday, easily winning the first of the two 1500 meter qualifying heats in 3:54.98 to advance to the Saturday final.

In the final itself, Sullivan lined up in what was one of the strongest 1500 fields in recent Division III history, competing against the likes of Trinity College senior Ryan Bak, Willamette freshman Nick Symmonds, and UW-Platteville junior Ryan Kleimenhagen. Both Bak and Symmonds had already run near four minutes flat for the mile earlier in the season, and Kleimenhagen, who had been injured during the indoor season, also had the potential to equal that time.

Bak took the race out in a very fast time--58 seconds for the first 400 meters--with Symmonds and Kleimenhagen close behind and Sullivan leading the chase pack behind them. At the half-mile, Symmonds and Kleimenhagen had caught Bak, and had settled down to an alarmingly comfortable pace. About ten meters behind Sullivan, Puget Sound junior Dan McLean and Williams College junior Matt Winkler had formed the chase pack.

Kleimenhagen attempted to pass Bak and Symmonds with 200 meters to go, but was headed off as Symmonds and Bak also began to move. And as they came into the final straight, Bak and Symmonds were head-to-head with Kleimenhagen fading behind. But the Willamette freshmen found another gear and sprinted away to win in 3:46.66. He went on to win the 800 meters less than half an hour later. Bak was second in 3:46.75, and Kleimenhagen third in 3:47.59. Sullivan, in a still-blistering fast time of 3:49.38, was sixth. In any other year that time might have won the race.

"Patrick had, by far, his best ever race in the 1500," Hall said. "The field in that event was exceptionally deep, and had he not really risen to the occasion, he would have not come home with the All-America honors. He ran very intelligent races in both the prelims and the finals and I couldn't be more pleased with the way he competed."

Third-year Adeoye Mabogunje, who was eighth in the triple jump at the indoor national meet, also competed in that event on Saturday but was unable to make the final, jumping only 13.89 meters in prelims.