March 14, 2014
Albuquerque, NM – The men’s DMR at the 2014 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships had a very clear victor in Stanford University largely thanks to a ridiculous 400 leg from Australia’s Olympic finalist Steven Solomon. Their 4-man team of Solomon, Marco Bertolotti, Luke Lefebure and Michael Atchoo won the race by almost 3 seconds. Behind them, Columbia made a valiant effort to close the gap on Stanford, but in the end it cost them as they were passed by 3 teams in the last lap with Oregon getting 2nd, Indiana 3rd and Notre Dame 4th.
The Least Important Leg Makes The Race
A couple things are almost universally true when it comes to DMRs: 1) It always comes down to the 1,600 and 2) The 400 leg doesn’t really matter. Well, in this race, this wasn’t the case at all when it came to deciding the victor.
The 1,200 leg was business as usual as pretty much the entire field was within 2 seconds of each other (except for Oklahoma State, who dropped the baton and was already more than 10 seconds back). Columbia handed off in first after a stellar leadoff leg of 2:58.52 by 1:48 man Brendon Fish and was followed closely by Stanford, Villanova and everyone else.
And then Stanford played it’s hand. Australian Olympic 400m finalist Steven Solomon (who was running fresh in this race as he skipped the open 400) bolted away from the field and ran a smoking 45.75 leg which was more than two seconds faster than all but three times ran and more than a second faster than the next fastest split in the field (46.91). Solomon handed off to 800 leg Luke Lefebure, who ran the second-fastest 800 leg in the field with 1:49.30 to hand off to Michael Atchoo with a solid 2+ second lead over Columbia in 2nd who then in turn had almost another second on Villanova in 3rd.
In the first 200m of the 1,600 leg, both Stanford’s Atchoo and Columbia’s Daniel Everett got out very quickly and from then until the last lap the race looked like this: Stanford way ahead of Columbia – Columbia way ahead of everyone else. Unofficially we clocked Atchoo’s first 400 in the low 59-second range, but Everett had gained a lot on Atchoo, so his first 400 was even faster than that. Behind those two teams, Arkansas’s Patrick Rono led a very bunched-up chase pack.
It continued like that until the end of the race when Stanford’s lead continued to grow, but Columbia was starting to get caught. In the last lap, Atchoo easily put it away for Stanford with a 4:03.99 anchor leg, giving them a 9:37.63 overall time. A ways back, it was a mad dash for second with Oregon’s Trevor Dunbar running 4:03.00 to beat out Indiana (9:40.47 to 9:41.23), Notre Dame and then Columbia in 5th.
Quick Thought #1: When you do the math, we aren’t exaggerating when we say that Solomon won the DMR for Stanford. While he only ran 1.16 seconds faster than the next fastest 400 leg, he ran way faster than the legs that ended up mattering in the end. With the 400 leg alone, Stanford put 2.11 seconds on Columbia and 2.63 seconds on Oregon. And how much did Stanford beat 2nd-place Oregon by? 2.84 seconds. Without that blazing 400 leg, teams like Oregon and Columbia could have been right in it and the race might have gone completely differently.
Stanford won because they had four solid legs, but if you compare their other three legs to Oregon’s, they were only .21 faster. The 400 leg was where they pulled away.
QT #2: In our preview we said (with the exception of a DMR appearance by Mac Fleet for Oregon) that we thought Stanford would win the DMR. Why? They had stacked the race with fresh guys and other teams had top guys either skipping the DMR to focus on individual events, or doubling up with both. If you look at the top 3 teams today, they were all 100% fresh.
In his post-race interview, Stanford’s Atchoo said “They wanted to go all-in on this one” and it felt great to get it done. Then he ended the interview by puking into a trash can.
QT #3: We spoke with the Columbia DMR team after the race, and they were happy with their 5th place finish. Everett though admitted that he “went out a little too aggressive and paid for it at the end.”
QT #4: Pretty slow times across the board (even considering the altitude) as 9:44 got 8th place. Coming in, 8th place on the descending order list was 9:29 and 9:44 wouldn’t even get a team in the top 50 performances this year.
QT #5: Penn State came in with the fastest time of the year, but then finished second-to-last, only beating out OSU, who dropped the baton. They were in the hunt until the last leg where 3:57 man Robby Creese ran a 4:19.
QT #6: We think there was another dropped baton besides OSU and maybe it was Penn State? We heard someone say Villanova though. We’ll look at the replay and update this later.
QT #7: Oregon picked up another 8 points here which is is big. As we mentioned in our 5K recap, they’re leading the meet after day 1 and are legitimate contenders to win it all.
QT #8: IU was happy with their 3rd place finish. Interview with the full squad below.
Results (full lap splits for each athlete here):
|4||Notre Dame||SO||ND||9:41.90||1 (4)|
|6||Virginia Tech||SO||VT||9:42.82||1 (6)|
|11||Penn State||SO||PSU||9:57.88||1 (11)|
|12||Oklahoma St.||SO||OKST||10:01.56||1 (12)|