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May 22, 2012

Wild Bill heads west to NCAA Championships


Courtesy of Dave Hilbert

The men’s track and field season came to a close last Thursday and Friday at the North Central Last Chance for all but one Maroon.

Third-year distance runner Billy Whitmore will head to the NCAA Championship this Thursday to compete in the 10,000-meter after finishing the season ranked 17th in the nation at the D-III level. 

The Maroons had three athletes competing at the Last Chance with a realistic shot at national qualification. Fourth-year thrower Daniel Heck, fourth-year distance runner Moe Bahrani, and third-year sprinter Dee Brizzolara all entered the competition harboring some hope of an NCAA berth. Whitmore took the week off with his ranking all but secured.

Heck was the first of the three athletes to compete and finished in 13th place in the hammer competition with a throw of 46.66m, nearly six meters shy of his season’s best (52.20m). Heck missed out on the nation’s top 50 by 0.99m.

“Daniel didn’t have his best day,” head coach Chris Hall said. “I think that had more to do with the throwing circle. It was a little slippery and he had a hard time controlling his footwork in the circle, in particular when he was tracing big throws. It was disappointing for Dan, but what a great season for him. He really had a great year.”

Bahrani had the more successful meet of the two fourth-years, finishing 14th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in a season’s best time of 9:22.44, nearly three seconds faster than his previous best. Bahrani finished the season ranked 47th in the nation.

“Moe ran a life time best,” Hall said. “It wasn’t enough to get him into the NCAAs, but he moved up to number three in our all time honor rolls and really had an outstanding performance.”

Brizzolara, perhaps the Maroon who was most likely to make a late charge to qualify for the NCAAs, finished fourth in the 200-meter in a time of 21.87s. That was three one-hundredths of a second behind his season’s best, leaving him ranked 50th in the nation.

Brizzolara also competed in the 100-meter, running a season’s best (10.88s) in the qualifying round to finish in seventh place. He did not compete in the 100-meter final, focusing instead on the 200-meter.

“I was disappointed I didn’t make it to nationals,” Brizzolara said, “but [my performance in] the 100 and 200 both far and away exceeded my expectations about what I could do. I think that’s a big tribute to our new sprints coach who’s helped me develop a lot as a runner.”

For those Maroons without prospects of national qualification, the meet provided a valuable opportunity to test themselves against one of the strongest fields they have seen all season. The younger athletes had the chance to experience the level of competition they can expect if they hope to qualify for Nationals in the future, while the fourth-years said farewell to college athletics.

“I definitely was not too pleased with my performance Friday,” said fourth-year Brian Schlick, who finished 31st in the 1,500-meter in a field of over 50 athletes. “After coming off a strong showing the week earlier, I don’t think I had much left in the tank, so to speak. However, I felt very proud to be able to represent my school these past four years and look forward to seeing how our team competes in the years ahead.”

Attention will now turn to Whitmore, who is hoping to make the most of his final collegiate crack at the 10,000-meter later this week. The NCAA Championship gets underway this Thursday, with the 10,000-meter scheduled to start at 7:05p.m.

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