CLAREMONT, Calif. — Senior all-American Mike Hutton took the top spot in his qualifying heat of the men’s 800-meter run on Friday, the only St. Thomas competitor to advance to the finals in the second day of the NCAA Division III track and field championships.
Five St. Thomas athletes participated in the day’s events, but only Hutton was able to advance to Saturday’s finals with a time of 1 minute 52.16 seconds.
“The time wasn’t where we wanted it to be, but it was fine,” Hutton said. “We had a good race.”
Hutton ran in the third heat of the 800 meter preliminaries, and his first-place time in his heat was slower than than eight other runners in the first two heats. Jake Waterman of Wabash posted the best time of 1:50.11
Coach Peter Wareham said that to win the title, Hutton will need to adjust his speed.
“He just has to get out a little harder than he probably did today and just do what he’s been doing all year,” Wareham said. “We want him to win it.”
Hutton, who came into the event as the second seed, said he has high hopes for Saturday’s finals.
“I want to win it,” he said. “If I go down with anything but first I’m going to be pretty bummed.”
The first event of the day for St. Thomas was the high jump, where junior all-American Eyo Ekpo placed 11th out of 20 competitors. Ekpo, seeded third, leaped 6 feet 8 inches, but missed three tries at 6-9.
“I came out and tried,” Ekpo said. “I’m not happy with how I did though.”
Ekpo entered the national meet after taking time off training because of a groin injury he suffered shortly after the MIAC championship meet. Coach Brian Pink said he thought Ekpo had a great day considering his circumstances.
“He competed well after taking two weeks off after a great performance at conference championships,” Pink said. “Coming in here as healthy as he could, I was really impressed with the way he came out and competed.”
The 6-9 height proved to be a difficult one, with only five making the height. Ekpo, who qualified for the meet at 6-10¾, said he didn’t expect the height to be his last.
“The last time I jumped, I jumped a couple inches over it,” Ekpo said. “I’ve gotten that height basically at every meet indoor and most of my meets so I wasn’t expecting to not get it.”
Sophomore Maxwell Dunne completed the last of his 10 decathlon events and placed 18th of 20 with 6,250 points.Throughout the second day of the meet, Dunne competed in the 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1500-meter run.
In the 100 meters, sophomore Christina Rozeske finished in 12.19 seconds, seventh in her heat. Rozeske was seeded 10th in the nation with a qualifying time of 12.00, but finished the day 17th out of 22 competitors.
Senior Larissa Peyton took 18th in the 800 meters with a time of 2:14.69. Peyton was also seeded 18th coming into the race, but she said she was not feeling her best before the race started.
“I didn’t feel great, but I was definitely ready to compete hard and give it everything I’ve got,” Peyton said.
Even though Peyton trailed the pack after the first lap, she said was surprised by the split time and needed to work hard to maintain momentum and finish the race.
“We came through the 400 meters the fastest I’ve ever ran a 400 in an 800 before,” she said. “By then I was really hurting. I started to just try to focus on moving my feet forward.”
St. Thomas runners who advanced to the finals will compete Saturday. Hutton will be in contention for for the men’s 800 meter title, the women’s 4×100 and 4×400 meter relays will compete, and junior Taylor Berg will run in the 1500-meter finals.
Sixth seeded Ben Sathre will take his first trip around the track Saturday in the men’s 5000 meters.
Peyton, who will run on the women’s 4×400 meter relay, said she hopes her team will be successful in attaining all-America status.
“Hopefully we’ll get all-American in that, and then I can end my senior year on a high note,” Peyton said.
Heidi Enninga can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.