Indoor titles extend track teams’ tradition of domination

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The men’s and women’s track and field teams continued their dominance at the MIAC Indoor Championships Saturday at Carleton College.

The men’s team won its 26th consecutive indoor title with a score of 163 points, while the women’s team won its 11th straight indoor championship by a margin of 28 points.

“It feels so good,” senior sprinter Nikki Arola said. “It feels so awesome to be able to put on a St. Thomas uniform because there’s so much tradition behind it.”

Men’s team

The Tommie men’s team won in dramatic fashion, edging Hamline in the final event by only 7 points. Senior Pat Jager credits senior leadership as they key to the Tommies’ success.

“We’ve got some great seniors on the team,” Jager said. “In all the event groups we’ve got people leading our younger guys and showing them how it’s done. It paid off in the end here; we’re conference champs.”

After a weekend’s worth of events and races, the St. Thomas and Hamline men’s teams were tied at 145 points with two events to go, setting up a thrilling finish for the men’s 4-by-400-meter relay teams.

The turning point in the relay race came when sophomore Mike Hutton passed a Hamline sprinter in the third lap, giving anchor Pat Jager a large enough cushion to seal the victory.

St. Thomas junior Matthew Griswold and senior Joe Rohlfing gave the Tommie men’s team an early lead Thursday when they placed first and second, respectively, in the men’s pentathlon competition. Griswold scored 3,331 points in the five-event competition, while Rohlfing trailed just behind with 3,212 points.

“I knew coming in I could place high and do pretty well, and I just wanted to do the best I could and help the team,” Griswold said. “Really good start to the weekend.”

Men’s coach Steve Mathre said earlier in the week the pentathlon would have the most impact of any single event, and was confident that if St. Thomas did well, “we could outpace and outmatch the others into Friday and Saturday.”

Hutton also had a big weekend for the Tommie men, winning the 1000-meter dash with a time of 2:33:14 and placing second in the 400-meter dash with an NCAA provisional time of 1:53.14.

“It was exciting to win my first [individual] MIAC championship,” Hutton said. “I ran a decent time, got the win, and it was a good time.”

Sophomore Ben Sathre placed second in the 3000-meter relay with a time of 8:38.43. Jager also placed second in the 200-meter dash with a time of 22.70. He said the win was special because the team was able to overcome adversity throughout the year.

“We had smaller numbers this year, we lost some guys last year, but [we] came out on top anyways,” Jager said.

Freshman Eyo Ekpo was one of the highlights of the weekend in the triple jump, winning the event with an NCAA provisional and Recreation Center record of 47-10 ¾.

“It was fun, all season we’ve been working on triple jump,” Ekpo said. “It was really good to just put it all together.”

Ekpo also took third place in the high jump with a jump of 6-5. Seniors Joe Rohlfing and Cameron Roemhildt tied for fifth in the high jump.

The men’s team scored points in 19 of 20 possible events and received points from 17 different athletes.

Women’s team

For the Tommie women it was all about the seniors.

Senior Erin Sprangers took first in the 800-meter dash for the second consecutive year, finishing with a time of 2:14.47. It was a meet record, track record and NCAA provisional time for Sprangers.

“It felt awesome. It couldn’t have felt any better,” Sprangers said. “It hit me that it was my last one at 400 [meters] to go, and so I was like, ‘Don’t hold back anything.’”

Sprangers said this has been the most challenging year for St. Thomas track and field since she has been part of the program. The teams were forced to practice early in the morning off-campus due to construction and were subjected to harsh winter weather that made it difficult to train during the week.

“Our coach told us, ‘In 2010, the two zeros stand for ‘overcoming obstacles,’’” Sprangers said.

St. Thomas senior Kelly Russ had also had a big weekend for the Tommie women, contributing second place finishes in the 800-meter dash and mile run, with NCAA provisional times in both.

Many other seniors ended up near the top of the leader board in their events. Senior Laura Janas took first in the 55-meter hurdles with a time of 8.66 seconds, while Arola finished second in the 400-meter dash with a time of 58.51 seconds. Sprangers also took second in the 600-meter dash.

The highlight of the day for the women was the 4-by-400-meter relay, made up of seniors Molly Demmer, Sprangers, Russ and Arola. The team broke the Carleton Recreation Center record with a time of 3:57.02. The previous record was held by St. Thomas in 2006.

“It’s a blessing to be able to run with those girls, [I’ve] been running with them for 4 years now,” Arola said.

Miles Trump can be reached at