Princeton Men and Michigan Women Win 2013 NCAA Distance Medley Crowns

Two Totally Fresh Teams Get The Job Done

March 8, 2013

Fayatteville, AR – The last two years the Princeton Tigers mid-d crew turned heads at Penn Relays as they won three titles (two 4 x miles, one DMR) under the guidance of now Penn coach Steve Dolan. With new coach Jason Vigilante in charge and anchor senior Peter Callahan added to the mix, the Tigers won on an even bigger stage tonight as Callahan blew away the field and Penn State sophomore Robbie Creese over the last 200 to win in 9:33.01.

After a 26.2 final 200 meters (54.8ish), Callahan and the Tigers and coach Vigilante were celebrating the ninth NCAA mid-d title of his coaching career and everyone in the stands were left thinking the same thing when they watched Leo Manzano or Robbie Andrews win NCAA titles in the past for Vigilante – no one is out-kicking that guy.

Creese, who was doubling back from winning his mile prelim, fell from first to third on the last lap but battled back in the finishing stretch to finish second in 9:34.00 just ahead of Minnesota (9:34.21) but this wasn’t close at all over the last lap. The fresh Callahan, who was the 2010 US junior champ at 1,500, was untouchable on the last lap.

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Zavon Watkins Tried to Break it Open for Penn State

The race was honest for the first 3 legs as Penn State led. Penn State freshman 3:59 miler Brannon Kidder led throughout the opening leg before handing off in first (2:55.17). It’s hard to blow things wide open on the leadoff leg and Penn State was only a quarter of second ahead of Minnesota. Princeton’s leadoff leg, 1:49/3:44 man Michael Williams, closed well and did exactly what he needed to do – keep Princeton in the race. He handed in sixth – just 1.49 seconds back – in 2:56.66.

Princeton was right where it needed to be as the next three legs were all proven big-time commodities for the Tigers. 400 man Austin Holliman didn’t run like an Ivy League sprinter, he ran like the Olympic Trials 400 hurdler that he is as he actually recorded the fastest split of the night (46.35) as Princeton moved up two places to 4th and now was just 1.29 back.

Penn State opted not to run 1:45 800 man Cas Loxsom on the 800 leg as they wanted to keep the senior fresh for his shot at an individual 800 title on Sunday. As a result, Princeton’s 800 man Russell Dinkins didn’t have to do anything crazy. Dinkins, who sports a 1:48.29 indoor pb from his sophomore year in 2011, was racing against Penn State freshman Za’von Watkins and his 1:48.92.

Watkins faced a tough task of running out front all alone trying to extend the lead. He held onto the lead but after his 1:49.54 split, Penn State led by just .03 over Minnesota and Princeton by .66.

Game over.

The Battle for the Lead Just After the Bell

We had written in our NCAA preview that if Callahan, who ran 3:58 in the mile indoor last year before getting injured, got the baton within 1.5 seconds of the lead, he would win and we were proven correct.

How did we know? Well we’d watch him dominate two weeks ago in similar circumstances at the Ivy League champs. There, running against Cornell’s 4:00.00 miler Nick Wade who was doing double duty, Callahan won by nearly a second on the final lap, in only his second real race of the year. Then last week, at Notre Dame, he dusted Stanford’s 3:57 mile anchor Michael Atchoo in the DMR at Notre Dame.

Tonight, it was more of the same. The first 1200 of the anchor leg was very slow as Creese wasn’t far enough ahead to run away from Callahan or Minnesota so he was content to let the pace dawdle as 9 teams soon got back into contention after a 2:05 and 3:07 first 800 and 1200.

The pace accelerated to 28.6 on the next-to-last-lap and this is the only point in hindsight where Callahan was vulnerable. With about 350 meters to go, and boxed in, Callahan decided to drop back to sixth or seventh on the backstretch so he could move up and outside. When he did move outside, there was some contact and the Villanova anchor, Sam McEntee, just in front of him nearly went down. McEntee stumbled but kept himself upright (but Arkansas’ Kemoy Campbell dropped the baton), no flags were raised and the rest was history as at the bell Callahan struck with lethal force.

Princeton National Champs

Quick Take #1: Creese deserves a TON of credit for fighting to the end and coming back from third to get second for PSU. That being said, we think by anchoring the DMR tonight he not only lost this race but also lost any remote chance he might have had for winning the mile final tomorrow. To challenge collegiate record holder Chris O’Hare, he’d need to be perfect and now he’ll just be tired.

Quick Take #2: The DMR almost always comes down to who has the best miler and that was the case tonight. If anyone is capable of beating Chris O’Hare of Tulsa right now collegiately, it might just be Callahan of Princeton,  whose kick is lethal, if the final was tactical. But who’s to say how the injury prone and low mileage Callahan (rumoted 25 miles a week) would do on a second day of running if he had to run prelims and a final here.

Last week at the last-chance meet Princeton could have tried to qualify Callahan in the mile instead of trying to qualify the team in the DMR. Going the DMR route was clearly the right move by coach Vig whose magic in the mid-d continues at the NCAA level. Two weeks ago at the Heps (Ive League champs), 1200 leg Michael Williams ran the 1000m and ended up not scoring and the team lost by 1 point to Cornell. Now Williams is an NCAA champion.

Establishing yourself, even someone with the resume of Vigilante, in year one is crucial for all coaches. Vig inherited a super talented team, but he has taken them to new heights and now he has four guys and a head coach in his corner.

Quick Take #3: Vig’s guy’s 9 NCAA titles break down as follows. Vig told us he’s coached guys to 9 – but when we do the math it looks actually like 10.

2 indoor DMRs (Manzano/Callahan)
2 indoor miles (Manzano)
2 indoor 800s (Hernandez/Andrews)
2 outdoor 1500s (Manzano)
2 outdoor 800s (Hernandez.Andrews)

He’s also led DMR teams to sub 9:30 clockings at each of his last three stops (Texas 9:25), UVA (9:29) and Princeton (9:27).

Quick Take #4: You can’t win the race on leg one but you can lose it on the first leg. The top 8 teams were all in the top 8 at the end of the first exchange.

Quick Take #5: Running with the Buffaloes author and Princeton alum, Chris Lear, for the record would like to note that Peter Callahan, is Belgian-American (as is Chris).

*Results with runners’ names here.

Place Name Affiliation Time L1(1200m) L2(400m) L3(800m) L4(1600m)
1 Princeton PRIN 9:33.01 2:56.66 (2:56.66) 3:43.00 (46.35) 5:31.91 (1:48.92) 9:33.01 (4:01.11)
2 Penn State PSU 9:34.00 2:55.17 (2:55.17) 3:41.72 (46.55) 5:31.25 (1:49.54) 9:34.00 (4:02.75)
3 Minnesota MINN 9:34.21 2:55.43 (2:55.43) 3:42.67 (47.25) 5:31.28 (1:48.61) 9:34.21 (4:02.94)
4 Indiana IND 9:34.30 2:57.02 (2:57.02) 3:45.04 (48.03) 5:35.45 (1:50.41) 9:34.30 (3:58.86)
5 Villanova VILL 9:35.46 2:55.72 (2:55.72) 3:42.61 (46.89) 5:32.64 (1:50.03) 9:35.46 (4:02.83)
6 Oklahoma Sta OKST 9:35.55 2:55.82 (2:55.82) 3:43.32 (47.51) 5:34.92 (1:51.61) 9:35.55 (4:00.63)
7 Illinois ILL 9:35.56 2:57.33 (2:57.33) 3:43.85 (46.53) 5:33.95 (1:50.10) 9:35.56 (4:01.61)
8 Stanford STAN 9:39.22 2:55.88 (2:55.88) 3:43.64 (47.76) 5:34.53 (1:50.89) 9:39.22 (4:04.70)
9 Arkansas ARK 9:42.31 2:58.03 (2:58.03) 3:45.03 (47.01) 5:34.17 (1:49.14) 9:42.31 (4:08.15)
10 Virginia UVA 9:43.70 2:58.90 (2:58.90) 3:45.64 (46.75) 5:38.75 (1:53.11) 9:43.70 (4:04.96)
11 Oklahoma OU 9:44.39 2:58.72 (2:58.72) 3:46.26 (47.55) 5:38.95 (1:52.69) 9:44.39 (4:05.45)
12 Virginia Tec VT 9:49.69 2:57.91 (2:57.91) 3:45.48 (47.58) 5:36.22 (1:50.74) 9:49.69 (4:13.48)

Women’s Race: Michigan Collectively Passes Up Chances For Individual Glory for Team Glory
The women’s race was similar to the men’s in that Michigan was totally fresh. However, while none of the Princeton men qualified in individual events, the Michigan women featured three team members who all passed on individual events that they had qualified for to run the DMR.

Leadoff leg in senior Rebecca Addison, would have been seeded third in the 800 at 2:04.01. Instead, she ran the 1200 fresh and handed off third in 3:24.04. 800 leg,  senior Jilliam Smith (2:05.70) could have run the open 800, instead she had the fastest 800 split by nearly a full second (2:05.28) to give anchor, senior Amanda Eccleston, the lead.

Amanda Eccleston Leads Emily Lipari on the Anchor

Eccleston, who with a 4:37.33 sb, could have run the open mile, was involved in a battle with Emily Lipari of Villanova on the anchor. Lipari, who is running the 3000 individually tomorrow, stayed on the heels of Eccleston for the first 800 (2:15). The third 400 slowed to a 70.6 but it was too much for Lipari to handle as she cracked and fell 3-4 meters behind. The lead would widen on the penultimate lap. On the bell lap, Lipari would come storming back from perhaps being 20 meters down, but it was way too late to give her a chance for victory as Michigan won in a new facility record of 10:56.46 after Eccleston’s 4:32.29 split. Lipari (4:33.52/10:57.96) also got under the old facility record as host Arkansas was third (11:00.23).

Quick Take #1: Michigan was the class of this field on paper and on the track.

Quick Take #2: Oregon’s chances for a 4th straight team title, which were already remote, took a big beating here. Half-way through the anchor leg, places 3-9 were all up for grabs for all of the teams in the chase pack. Oregon was one of them but they only ended up with a single point in eighth.

Quick Take #3: The 400 leg for Michigan was a freshman, Maya Long. She ran well as she came in with a 55.09 sb and split 54.86.

Quick Take #4: This was DMR title #4 for Michigan under Rick McGuire.

*Results with runners’ names here.

Michigan DMR National Champs
Place Name Affiliation Time L1(1200m) L2(400m) L3(800m) L4(1600m)
1 Michigan MICH 10:56.46 3:24.04 (3:24.04) 4:18.90 (54.86) 6:24.18 (2:05.28) 10:56.46 (4:32.29)
2 Villanova VILL 10:57.96 3:23.77 (3:23.77) 4:18.02 (54.25) 6:24.44 (2:06.43) 10:57.96 (4:33.52)
3 Arkansas ARK 11:00.23 3:25.95 (3:25.95) 4:19.78 (53.84) 6:26.20 (2:06.43) 11:00.23 (4:34.03)
4 Florida Stat FSU 11:00.78 3:29.25 (3:29.25) 4:22.34 (53.10) 6:28.51 (2:06.17) 11:00.78 (4:32.28)
5 Kentucky UKY 11:01.14 3:25.56 (3:25.56) 4:20.44 (54.89) 6:28.17 (2:07.73) 11:01.14 (4:32.98)
6 Georgetown GTWN 11:01.31 3:25.01 (3:25.01) 4:19.09 (54.08) 6:25.45 (2:06.36) 11:01.31 (4:35.87)
7 Notre Dame ND 11:01.49 3:23.40 (3:23.40) 4:16.53 (53.13) 6:25.38 (2:08.86) 11:01.49 (4:36.11)
8 Oregon ORE 11:02.15 3:25.86 (3:25.86) 4:20.50 (54.64) 6:27.14 (2:06.65) 11:02.15 (4:35.01)
9 Duke DUKE 11:11.21 3:26.73 (3:26.73) 4:20.69 (53.97) 6:27.25 (2:06.57) 11:11.21 (4:43.96)
10 Georgia UGA 11:12.49 3:30.53 (3:30.53) 4:25.37 (54.85) 6:31.70 (2:06.33) 11:12.49 (4:40.79)
11 Stanford STAN 11:14.77 3:28.63 (3:28.63) 4:21.17 (52.55) 6:34.40 (2:13.24) 11:14.77 (4:40.37)
12 Connecticut UCON 11:25.09 3:25.60 (3:25.60) 4:19.27 (53.67) 6:34.45 (2:15.18) 11:25.09 (4:50.64)



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