Thrower Jeremy Heizer participated in the hammer throw, as well as the discus and shot put. (Photo by Scott Eyre)

Men’s and women’s track and field teams compete at ODAC Championships

Boosted by four gold medals and one silver, the Eastern Mennonite track men charted a third place finish at the ODAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships this weekend.  The meet was hosted by Bridgewater College, with events both Friday and Saturday.

Alec Thibodeaux (Staunton, Va./Fort Defiance) helped to highlight the day as he pointed in a couple of events.  The sophomore had a short lead on a handful of finishers to win the 800m as he crossed in 1:55.02.  It was easily Thibodeaux’s season best time, although more than a second and a half off his PR from last year.  The second place runner came in at 1:55.86 while teammate Tyler Denlinger (Perkasie, Pa./Christopher Dock) was third in 1:55.99, earning All-ODAC Third Team honors.

Thibodeaux then came in fourth in the 1500m with a PR time of 4:02.38, putting him fourth in the EMU history books as well.  Jared Nisly (Lancaster, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite) destroyed his PR and won his heat by six seconds to take sixth place in the event in 4:08.29.

Freshman Austin Hart (Manheim, Pa./Manheim Central) made a dazzling debut in the javelin, coming from the fourth seed to win gold with a PR throw of 50.10m (164-4ft).  He moves to No. 5 all-time at EMU.

The men also had some great finishes in the hurdles.  The Royals went 1-and-3 in the 400m hurdles, as freshman Connor Faint (Winchester, Va./Millbrook) claimed the gold.  Faint’s winning time was 54.23, a PR for him and fifth in EMU history.  Junior Jonathan Bush (Pottstown, Pa./Owen J. Roberts) also staked his PR, taking third place in the race in 57.04 and putting him at No. 10 in the EMU books.

Richard Robinson (Broadway, Va./Broadway) pulled away at the finish of the 110m hurdles, grabbing gold and All-ODAC First Team with a time of 15.30.  His PR moved him to No. 3 all-time at EMU in the event.  Azariah Cox (Lynchburg, Va./Heritage) had a gritty effort to claim fourth in the race in 16.25.

Jeremy Heizer (Staunton, Va./Riverheads) earned a silver in the shot put.  The big man landed at 14.39m (47-2.5ft), crushing his outdoor PR and moving to No. 2 in EMU history.  He earned All-ODAC Second Team honors with the throw and was just six inches short of first place at 14.54m (47-8.5ft).

The Royals had two point-takers in the high jump.  Drew Vrolijk (Harrisonburg, Va./Eastern Mennonite), who entered as the favorite in the event, settled for a bronze finish.  He took third based on jumps, tying his season best at 1.91m (6-3.25ft).  Faint was sixth at 1.73m (5-8.0ft), setting his PR.

Faint also took a point in the triple jump, earning sixth by a single millimeter with his PR at 13.07m (42-10.75ft).  He moves in ninth all-time at EMU as well.

Freshman Devantae Dews (Lynchburg, Va./E.C. Glass) took fifth in a tight finals of the 200m dash.  After standing in eighth after the prelims, Dews clocked a 22.55 PR in the finals, with all of the top six finished within 0.47 seconds of each other.

Nisly grabbed the final point in the 3000m steeplechase, leading a group of four EMU runners in sixth place with a tie of 10:19.04.

In the relays, the 4x100m squad of Chris Miller (Freeman, S.D./Freeman Academy), Dews, Justin Bradley (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods) and Terry Dotson (Appomattox, Va./Appomattox) earned fourth place with a time of 44.05.  The 4x400m foursome of Dews, Faint, Bush and Denlinger came in fifth in 3:22.50.

The men racked up 86 points to comfortably finish in third place for their highest outdoor finish since 2006.  Bridgewater won the men’s title with 154 points while Lynchburg was second with 132.  Washington and Lee was behind the Royals with 66 tallies.

Women Stand Fourth At ODACs And Win Individual Honors

Highlighted by four gold medals, the EMU track and field women earned their highest finish at the ODAC Outdoor Championships in nine year.  The meet was hosted by Bridgewater College Friday and Saturday.

To no one’s surprise, Hannah Chappell-Dick (Bluffton, Ohio/Bluffton) and Kat Lehman (Dover, Ohio/Dover) led the charge for the women, with each winning two gold medals with their All-ODAC First Team status.

Becca Borg is No. 2 all-time in EMU's javelin record book. (Photo by Scott Eyre)
Becca Borg is No. 2 all-time in EMU’s javelin record book. (Photo by Scott Eyre)

Chappell-Dick won the 800m and 1500m, breaking the ODAC Championships record in the 800m.  In the two-lap race she had a pair of Bridgewater runners hanging near her, but not enough to challenge for top honors.  Chappell-Dick won in a time of 2:13.64, breaking the meet record of 2:13.91 set by Roanoke’s Carmen Graves two years ago.

In the 1500m, the All-American was her usual self, leading the pack in 4:46.81.  While a comfortable pace off her PR, it was still good enough to give Chappell-Dick the win by more than three seconds.  Lehman actually crossed fourth in the race in 4:53.38.

Lehman was then dominant in the two distance events.  In the 5000m she broke away from the pack early and strided her way to a facility record time of 18:03.55, breaking the old mark by more than 37 seconds.  Teammate Jolee Paden (St. Joseph, Ill./St. Joseph-Ogden) claimed the silver with a second place finish at the ODAC meet, timing at 19:02.62.

Lehman ran a great race to win the 10,000m Friday night.  The freshman ran with the pack for most of the race, before making her move with two laps to go.  Lehman made a quick pass of Roanoke’s Kerri Dalton to take over the lead, and then bolted away with more than a 19-second margin over the final 800m.  Lehman’s winning time was another facility-record 39:01.45, a comfortable win over Dalton’s 39:20.83.  Paden stayed with the lead group most of that race as well and came in fifth with a time of 40:03.77.

Oksana Kittrell (Bedford, Va./Liberty) completed a great first season in the jumping events.  She took fourth in the long jump, landing a PR jump at 5.27m (17-3.5ft), less than an inch behind the All-ODAC status of third place at 5.29m (17-4.25ft).  The distance also bumped her up to No. 3 in EMU history.  In the triple jump, Kittrell grabbed another fourth place finish, totaling 10.72m (35-2ft).

Senior Alyssa Bane (Strasburg, Va./Strasburg) was one of four women to break the facility record in the hammer throw.  She claimed fourth with a landing at 44.10m (144-5ft), within sight of Bridgewater’ Katelyn Senger in third with 44.18m (144-11ft).  It was a huge PR for Bane, upping her own school record, which had been 39.28m (128-10ft).  Bane added a point to the team total in the discus, taking sixth with a season best of 31.00m (101-8ft).

Chappell-Dick also earned some points in this high jump.  In just her second-ever effort in the event, the junior tied for fourth by clearing 1.51m (4-11.5ft).

Becca Borg (Peninsula, Wash./Gig Harbor) was sixth in the javelin, as the junior landed at 30.97m (101-7ft) and inched up her PR and No. 2 spot in the EMU history books.

Freshman Mary Eldridge (Gig Harbor, Wash./Peninsula) grabbed a point in the 3000m steeplechase.  She earned sixth place with a time of 13:07.23.

The 4x400m relay team of Brittany Williams (King George, Va./King George), Chappell-Dick, Maya McKinsey (Virginia Beach, Va./Tallwood) and Juni Schirch (Goshen, Ind./Goshen) claimed fourth, just missing All-ODAC status, with a time of 4:04.41.  The 4x100m group of Makora Nyagwegwe (East Norriton, Pa./Christopher Dock), Chappell-Dick, Kittrell, and McKinsey was sixth with a time of 52.16.

The Royals had 77 points as a team, earning fourth place overall for their highest team finish since 2006.  Roanoke won the women’s side with 156 points, followed by Bridgewater at 105 and Washington and Lee at 91.  Lynchburg and Virginia Wesleyan were tied for fifth behind EMU with 63.

The ODAC Championships meet completes the main season for the Eastern Mennonite track teams.  Now the focus turns to twilight meets and preparing for hopeful runs at the NCAA National Championships in late May.  The next meet scheduled for the Royals is the Liberty Twilight Qualifier on April 29.

Individual Awards
The Royals picked up a trio of individual honors at the ODAC Championships as well.  Kat Lehman was named the Rookie of the Year, winning two events and looking for another trip to the national meet after going in cross country and indoor track as well.

Hannah Chappell-Dick made it a sweep of the ODAC/Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete awards, as she also claimed that honor in cross country and indoor track.  Chappell-Dick recently added an All-American title to her name after finishing second in the mile at the national indoor meet to go with a 3.86 GPA as a biology major.

Coach Jason Lewkowicz was named the ODAC Coach of the Year, as he was recognized for his work with the women in picking up his first ODAC award in his final season with the Royals.