Track and field: Tough breaks hamper the Bears at nationals

| Sports Reporter

Just one-tenth of a second separated first and sixth place in the race for the country’s best Division III hurdlers, and Washington University sophomore Dan Davis was caught right in the middle of it. The sophomore left the NCAA Nationals at Greencastle, Ind., with All-American honors in the men’s 55-meter hurdles, but it was merely 0.08 seconds that separated him from first-place finisher Edgar Townsend Jr. (7.46) from Greenville College and merely one-hundredth of a second from coming home with a medal.

“It’s not that big of a margin,” said Davis, “but when you get to that level of competition it can be a pretty big deal.”

In the end, there wasn’t much else that Davis, the only sophomore in the field of eight, could do. Davis claims he let his focus slip and that’s all there was to it. Ultimately, his time of 7.54 seconds was the second best of his indoor season after his school-record time of 7.53 seconds last month at Monmouth.

“I was the only sophomore in the field and I think it showed…I wish it would have gone better, but it was great to be there, compete, and see it,” he said. “Next time it won’t come as such a shock.”

Davis added that while he will continue to work on the technical, the experience is likely to be the best part of the trip besides earning All-American honors.

“Dan improved a ton from last year, running with a lot of confidence,” head coach Jeff Stiles said. “[He ran] the best race of his life.”

Also competing at nationals for the Bears were junior Ben Harmon in the pentathlon, and the women’s distance medley relay (DMR) team.

The DMR team appeared to have hit its stride at just the right time after posting a Wash. U. record of 11:55.31, but hopes of a similar performance were dashed by a case of misfortune. The Bears fell behind early on when junior Sangeeta Hardy had the baton knocked out of her hands. “I got shoved around…next thing I knew, the baton wasn’t in my hands anymore,” Hardy said. Sophomore Liz Phillips crossed the finish line at 12:17.77 for a disheartening 11th-place finish out of 11 teams. “We were in the best shape of our lives,” Hardy said. “The hardest part for me is just not giving my teammates a chance to race their heart out.”

Phillips, who was the UAA Women’s Most Outstanding Performer in Running Events, also earned the Elite 88 Award. That award goes to the athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average at each of the NCAA’s 88 championships. Phillips has a 4.0 GPA as a biomedical engineering major.

Harmon began the pentathlon with a similarly rough start in the 55-meter hurdles, crashing into a hurdle, causing his knee to gush blood for the next six hours, according to Hardy.

“It didnt affect me all that much,” Harmon said of his injury. Harmon, who was named the University Athletic Association Men’s Indoor Most Outstanding Performer in Field Events, began the event in 12th place after posting 8.51 seconds in the 55-meter hurdle.

Harmon found himself back in fifth place, despite a season-best long jump of 6.96 meters, but returned to 11th following a shot put of 8.34 meters. After failing to gain any ground despite a fifth-place finish in the high jump (1.93 meters), Harmon finished the competition in ninth, with a total of 3,430 points, thanks to the third-best 1,000-meter run (2:47.74). “He competed his guts out,” Stiles said.

Stiles and the rest of the coaching staff were also recognized last week as UAA Indoor Men’s Coaching Staff of the Year, Stiles’ first such honor in his two years as head coach.

The Bears won’t waste any time transitioning from indoor to outdoor as they head to Memphis, Tenn., this weekend for the Rhodes Open Meet. Stiles and the team plan to use the results from the indoor national championships as motivation to improve in the outdoor championships.

With additional reporting by Johann Qua Hiansen