By Jared Fields, Managing Editor
BOSTON – Friday the men’s team scored just five points, but found a way Saturday to finish with 48.5 points to claim second place as a team at the NCAA Division II Indoor National Championships.
The women’s team finished fourth with 36 points.
Lincoln University won the women’s meet with 105 points. The women’s highest placing events were in the 4×400-meter relay and Mary Mwangi in the 800-meters with third place finishes.
While most looked at the men’s final standings with surprise at the Wildcats’ finish, head cross-country and assistant coach Derek Hood knew how the men found their points.
“I’ll tell you how we did it,” Derek Hood said. “It was that guy right there.”
Derek Hood pointed to Nicodemus Naimadu. Naimadu, who salvaged the men’s distance medley relay Friday night for a fourth-place finish, scored 18 points in his two events Saturday, finishing second by 0.07 seconds in the mile and winning the 5,000-kilometers with a time of 14:02.87. Julius Nyango ran a personal best time of 4:07.65 in the mile to finish fourth.
Naimadu stayed in the lead group throughout the race conserving energy. He would need it in the last few laps of the 5,000, having to pass, out-sprint, and hold on to the lead against Western State’s Kim Hogarth. The win is Naimadu’s 10th individual national championship, tying him for most in school history with John Kemboi and former Olympian Bobby Morrow.
“There were three laps to go and he came up on me,” Naimadu said. “Then I just out-sprinted him.”
The Wildcat’s saw one other athlete win a national championship Saturday. Senior Vladyslav Gorbenko jumped 53-3.00 feet to defeat defending champion Wilbert Walker from Lincoln in the men’s triple jump. Teammate Davy Manga finished behind Walker by a mere quarter of an inch to take third place for ACU with a jump of 52-1.00.
“I was focused on my performance,” Gorbenko said. “My only competitor was myself. I was thinking about leaving everything on this track because it’s the national championship.”
Pole-vaulter Kyle Dennis, who went into the meet with the highest vault of the year at 17-0.75 feet, fell short of that mark and finished tied for fourth at a height of 16-4.00.
The women’s team had four other athletes receive all-America status. In the shot put, freshman Kellie Clement threw 45-3.50 feet for eight-place. Keva Wilkins finished fourth in the 400-meters with a time of 55.50 and Azraa Rounds came in eighth at 56.19 seconds. Along with Mwangi in the 800-meters, Denise Morgan finished close behind in fifth place with personal best indoor time of 2:12.83. Mwangi’s time of 2:12.37, was a personal best for her in outdoor and indoor competition.
The women’s outcome was not the goal they had in mind, nor expected, but head coach Don Hood said that sometimes bad weekends just can’t be avoided. Hood saw more athletes lose to a hamstring than any other competitor.
“I’ve had two or three of these in my whole coaching career,” Hood said. “The women’s mile relay – they ran one of the best times in school history, and we had three subs. They didn’t lay down and quit.”