Rick Schmuecker, Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
GULF SHORES, Ala. – Doane Track and Field claimed a share of the men’s NAIA National Championship on Friday behind a complete team effort. The Tigers entered the day two points out of first place and then held the lead entering the final two events. Madonna (Mich.) moved into first place with 44 points after winning a national title in the 5000-meter run.
Doane, with the 4x400m relay remaining, not only had to post a fourth place finish or higher, but had to prevent Indiana Tech from jumping them in the team standings. The Tigers found themselves sitting in a tight pack entering the anchor leg, but in seventh place. Zach Turner (FR/Crete, Neb.) took the baton and posted a time of 47.25 to chase down a fourth place finish. Indiana Tech, the race favorite, finished in 3rd place. The five points for Doane pushed the Tiger total to 44 points, matching Madonna, while Indiana Tech garnered six points and finished with 43 team points.
The Tigers collected 44 points behind 12 NAIA All-American finishes (by placing in the Top 8) but without a single individual national title. Madonna recorded their points on six All-American performances and three individual titles.
“All week I was thinking about what I would say to the team if we were in this position at the end, and all I could tell them is that it is ‘unforgettable’,” Head Coach Ed Fye said. “Every moment when we look back at it will be unforgettable.”
Doane entered the day with 18 points and six All-American performances. The morning opened with a program first as Alec Wick (JR/Blair, Neb.) became the men’s first-ever All-American in the marathon, placing sixth with a time of 2:47:24 and moving Doane into a tie for first place in the team standings with Midland (Neb.).
“His performance was courageous,” Fye said. “We were not sure if he was going to be able to finish his final 200m but he received some words of encouragement from a fellow racer (George Beddow of Rocky Mountain) to finish the race and he pushed through.”
The Warriors regained the lead in the team standings following the men’s shot put. Doane chipped away with a seventh place finish by Turner in the 110m hurdles (14.29) and a seventh place finish by Henry Arnold (SR/Falls City, Neb.) in the triple jump (14.92m/48-11.50).
Doane took the lead in the team standings following the pole vault where Levi Sudbeck(SR/Hadar, Neb.) hit a personal best mark of 5.05m (16-06.75) to place second and teammate Connor Floyd (FR/Sutherland, Neb.) cleared 5.00m (16-04.75) to place third as the duo snagged 14 team points to raise the team total to 39 with six events remaining. Almost simultaneously with the performances of Sudbeck and Floyd was a significant turning point in the team standings as Indiana Tech dropped the baton in the 4x100m relay and they did not earn any team points.
As the Tigers sat back and waited, they continued to hold their lead though a few teams started to creep closer. Following the 200m sprint, Indiana Tech had pulled within two points of Doane. The 5000m followed and Madonna’s Tony Floyd posted a nine-second victory to vault the Crusaders into first place on the team standings with 44 points. For Madonna, their day was done and now they had to wait to see the outcome of the final race, the 4x400m relay.
Austin Drake (SO/Allen, Tex.) took the starting blocks for Doane and was in sixth place on the exchange with Logan Hammond (JR/Ogallala, Neb.). Leading into the second exchange, Doane had moved up one spot to fifth as the baton was passed to Jordan Tasler (FR/Atkinson, Neb.). As Tasler raced to the next exchange, Doane had dropped to seventh in a cluttered exchange with only 0.44 seconds separating the teams between fourth and seventh place.
Turner found himself stuck behind the group through the first 100m but was able to start making his move on the backstretch. Coming down the stretch through the final 100m, Turner had passed up two teams and outran the anchor leg for Science & Arts (Okla.) to pick up the fourth place finish. The squad brought home All-American honors and a national title to Doane.
Ten years ago, Doane posted their previous best finish with a runner-up finish to Shorter (Ga.) in 2011. The Tigers also had a third place finish in 2013.
Fye closed out his thoughts of the meet saying “this was fun!”