By Steve Holt, Copy Editor
ACU won its 48th national title Saturday, edging out Western State (Colo.) 58-54 at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Champion-ships. The women’s team placed second to St. August-ine’s. All but two of the 11 Wildcat men’s athletes or relays scored team points in the battle, but no points were more important than the 13 from sophomore Bernard Manirakiza.
The Burundi native entered the meet ranked first in the mile and 800 meters. Twenty-five meters into the mile, another runner inadvertently kicked Manirakiza’s shoe off, forcing the Wildcat runner to run the majority of the race with just one shoe.
But despite the freak occurrence, Manirakiza ran a personal best time of 4:05.44 to place sixth.
Then well into the competition Saturday, Manirakiza won the 800 meters in 1:51.52 to put ACU on top for good, barring a disastrous finish in the 4×400-meter relay. The relay finished sixth, which sealed it for ACU.
In the 60-meter dash, it was all Nic Alexander from ACU and Jason Smoots from North Carolina Central. Both sprinters broke Smoots’ meet record from last year in the preliminaries, but Smoots pulled away from Alexander in the final after a neck-and-neck race. Smoots’ and Alexander’s times of 6.55 and 6.57, respectively, would have placed second and third in the event at the Division I championships the same day. Alexander’s time was an ACU record.
“Those two are probably two of the best sprinters in the nation,” head coach Jon Murray said. “Nic had been running really well. I knew it was going to take a really fast time to beat him. It was the premier race of the day.”
Three senior women contributed a great deal to the Cats’ effort to win a national title.
Senior Maresa Cadienhead won her fifth career high jump title with just one jump in her final meet as a collegiate athlete with a height of 5-9 3/4.
“I feel satisfied with my win,” Cadienhead said. “My goal was to remain the reigning champion and record-holder of the high jump. I set the goal and managed to surpass the standard; there’s no greater feeling.”
Senior Lakeshia Finch picked up her first individual title, winning the women’s triple jump with an indoor best mark of 40-11 3/4. Finch said the title was a milestone for her.
“I think being a senior definitely makes the win sweeter because this was my last opportunity indoors to become a national champion in my event,” Finch said. “The victory was really a stepping stone for me.”
Murray said it is especially memorable when seniors pick up wins at nationals.
“It was great for them to show their leadership out there,” Murray said. “Unfortunately, we fell a little short in the team standings.”
In the women’s 60-meter dash, senior Althea Johnson placed second with a time of 7.46. Lincoln’s Shandria Brown won the event with a meet record time of 7.43.
Finch said the women’s runner-up finish should act as motivation for the outdoor season.
“Everyone got out there and did their best, and their best was not good enough. But that is all anyone can ask for,” she said. “This just makes us hungry for the outdoor title.”