March 15, 2014
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The Hoyas may not be in Denver, but they surely were a mile high as they took the track today on the first day of the 2014 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships held at the Albuquerque Convention Center and hosted by the University of New Mexico. The women's distance medley relay (DMR) squad earned All-America honors with a seventh-place performance to end the night's events.
"I'm really pleased with the women's DMR," Assistant Track Coach Mike Smith said following the race. "Hannah did the best she could in that situation of getting pushed out the back. Deseree ran hard and kept us in it. Sabrina doubling at altitude - a freshman, 18 years old - and Katrina is a fighter. She did everything she could to get us back in it."
The women's DMR was led off by Hannah Neczypor (North Royalton, Ohio/North Royalton) who went out and got great position after the stagger but as the race slowed down, her inside position worked against her. Neczypor stayed on the rail as the field made moves on the outside putting Neczypor toward the end with a lot of ground to make up. She split 3:29.45, handing off to Deseree King (Oxon Hill, Md./Oxon Hill) for the 400.
King got the baton in the bottom half and made a strong move to get good positioning off the handoff. King's first 200 meters were great as she started to pick off runners and holding the pack off. The second 200 saw Duke make a move on the outside but King continued to keep the remainder of the pack at bay. Through the final straightaway, King started to close the gap on Duke and split 55.10, handing off to Sabrina Southerland (New York, N.Y./Benjamin N. Cardozo).
Southerland's stanza was her second 800 meters at altitude within 90 minutes and as the race continued, Southerland started to drift back, splitting 2:10.65, and handing off to anchor Katrina Coogan (Exeter, N.H./Phillips Exeter Acadmey) in 10th place.
With Coogan's placement, the probable outcomes for Georgetown were limited. Coogan tucked in to a good position to wait and pick people off with 600 meters to go. She continued to make moves and picked off enough runners to finish seventh with a time of 11:18.39, getting the Hoyas on the podium and earning All-America status, splitting 4:43.20.
"At this level, they're all good anchors," Smith said. "I thought it was a very assertive move to lead that pack and try to go like she did. Today was an example of being an assertive, confident and mature runner and she was able to get away from people, some of the best anchors in the country."
In an altitude like this, one can expect dry, thin air and dehydration is commonplace. Most races longer than 400 meters went out slower than expected as many athletes, particularly those who were not as familiar with the conditions, were seemingly affected by the elements.
In the first of two heats in the women's 800-meter semifinals, Andrea Keklak (Sudbury, Mass./Lincoln-Sudbury/Princeton) started in the first position of the second group in a two waterfall start with a two-turn stagger, bringing the entire field of eight together before the completion of the first lap - teammate Southerland lined up in the first position in the first waterfall, right on the rail.
Following the stagger, Keklak positioned herself in first place, hugging the rail the majority of the way, a lead she would never relinquish. The junior notched a spot in tomorrow's final with a time of 2:07.13 as she held off the field that was following right on her shoulder through the finish.
"Keklak's race is another example of assertiveness," Smith explained. "She led from the front and was a confident athlete - she is ready to be one of the best 800-meter runners in the country. She controlled the race and made the field race her."
Southerland kept up in the top three through 200 meters but her middle two laps seemed problematic as she slipped to seventh place going in to the bell lap. She closed the gap enough to snag fifth place (2:08.73) in the hopes that the second heat would go out slow enough to get in to the finals on time with the top three from each heat advancing automatically along with the next two fastest times. The second heat would go out faster than the first and Southerland was eliminated from the finals field, finishing 10th overall.
The men's DMR saw the foursome of Amos Bartelsmeyer (St. Louis, Mo./Saint Louis Country Day), Devante Washington (Lafayette, La./Lafayette), Ryan Manahan (Marcellus, N.Y./Marcellus) and Ahmed Bile (Annandale, Va./Annandale) take the track. Bartelsmeyer tried to get good positioning after the stagger with the pack coming together and lots of shuffling and edging. Bartelsmeyer got taken over in what turned out to be a slower relay than anyone expected. The handoff to Washington was high on the track due to positioning and Washington was forced to dodge errant runners who failed to get off the track following their leadoff legs. Manahan did what he could to give life to what was a flat Hoya relay thus far. His split of 1:49.97 was the fifth-fastest of the 800m leg and helped to keep the Blue & Gray closer to the pack with Bile taking over the anchor. Bile's first 800 meters looked as though he was ready to close the gap but as the race went on, Bile seemed to run out of steam as the Hoyas finished 10th overall with a time of 9:57.85.
In the men's 800-meter semifinals, Billy Ledder (Washington, D.C./Gonzaga) went out in the second of two heats with the same setup as the women, a double waterfall, two-turn stagger. Ledder lined up in the fourth position of the first waterfall and fought for good positioning following the stagger in what turned out to be a particularly slow heat. With cautious steps abound, Ledder found himself further back than anyone would like to be in a four-lap race. Ledder, in his third year of eligibility, could not find a way to break through the pack and slipped to seventh place after 400 meters in densely-populated pack. The field thinned out over the next 200 meters with Ledder staying in seventh place for the remainder of the race, recording a time of 1:56.44.
The two-day championship continues through tomorrow night. The event will have a limited live broadcast on ESPN3 Saturday with a full broadcast of the entire event happening on tape delay on Saturday, March 22, also on ESPN3.
This is the first time under the tutelage of Director of Track & Field / Cross Country Patrick Henner that the Hoyas have had a student-athlete in the women's 800-meter indoor final (Andrea Keklak)
The last time the Hoyas won an individual event at the NCAA Indoor Championships: March 10, 2012; Emily Infeld; Women's 3,000m; 9:15.44; Jackson Track Center, Nampa, Idaho (facility record)
This is the third-straight year the Hoyas have put a student-athlete in the finals of the women's 3,000-meter run and the fourth time in five years ... Emily Infeld made appearances in 2010 and 2012 (winning in 2012) and Katrina Coogan will make back-to-back appearances in 2013 (7th place) and 2014
The Hoyas have never won the NCAA Indoor Women's 800m Run