Another sweep of indoor titles for ACU
By LANCE FLEMING
Special Writer for the Abilene Reporter-News
March 12, 2000
BOSTON - The Abilene Christian University men's and women's track and field teams are well on their way to another championship sweep after an amazing Saturday afternoon performance netted them both NCAA Division II indoor championships at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center.
The ACU women, who were admittedly out-manned going into the meet, squeezed out 22 points from only three athletes Saturday and then held on to beat North Dakota State by one point, 48-47, for their eighth straight indoor title.
The ACU men, who didn't score a single point Friday, racked up 80 Saturday afternoon to beat second-place St. Augustine's by three points.
The two championships won Saturday put ACU on track for another sweep of the NCAA Division II track and field championships.
ACU is the only school in NCAA history to win all four track and field championships in one year, having turned the trick in both 1996 and 1999. Another sweep at the outdoor championships in May in Raleigh, N.C., will add one more year to that list.
The two championships give ACU 44 track and field championships in its illustrious history, and are the first two for new head coach Jon Murray.
"Everybody was just tremendous today," Murray said. "Every single one of them just kept competing and kept competing and never let up."
The ACU women, who have now won 12 of the last 13 indoor championships, needed its only four performers on Saturday to score big points, and that's exactly what happened.
Juniors Hillerie Shelton and Dawnyel Newhouse got the Lady Wildcats' day off to a good start by scoring 12 points in the triple jump.
Shelton, who won the triple jump at last year's outdoor championship, finished second Saturday with a jump of 39 feet, 9? inches, giving the Wildcats eight points. Newhouse was fourth with a jump of 39 feet, one-half inch, giving ACU four more points.
Later in the afternoon, junior Shawntel Newhouse finished off ACU's scoring by capturing the 55-meter hurdles and the 10 points that went along with the win. She ran a personal-best time of 7.81 seconds to win her first individual national championship.
"Shawntel was fantastic in the hurdles," Murray said. "The girl running right next to her (Maria Quinonez of St. Augustine's) fell and tore her Achilles' tendon, but Shawntel kept her composure and just ran a fantastic race."
Shawntel Newhouse's victory gave the Lady Wildcats their fifth straight victory in the 55-meter hurdles and eighth in the event since 1988. Delloreen Ennis-London won the last four consecutive races, and current ACU assistant coach Sylvia Dyer won the title in 1998, 1989 and 1991.
"There was a little bit of pressure on me to continue what we've done in this event," she said. "On Friday, I told coach Dyer that I would run faster than she did. She ran 7.83 and I ran 7.81, so I was excited to break her mark."
After Shawntel Newhouse's victory in the hurdles, the Lady Wildcats had to sweat through five more events before finally claiming the championship. North Dakota State scored 14 points in the 400 meters, one more in the 800 and eight more in the 4x400 relay. St. Augustine's, however, won the 4x400 relay, capturing the 10 points to second-place North Dakota State's eight points, which was the difference in ACU winning the title and finishing second.
"That was really difficult," Murray said of the wait. "To be honest, the wheels kind of came off at the end for North Dakota State. It was their championship to take, but I'll tell you what - we'll take it. The girls just did a great job of competing on both Friday and Saturday."
Terrance Woods, the South Central Region Athlete of the Year, got the ACU men off to a solid start by winning the high jump at 7 feet, one-quarter inch. He had three jumps at tying the indoor record of 7 feet, 3? inches, but couldn't clear the bar.
"I was flawless until I tried to tie the record," Woods said. "I could have broken the record, but my technique wasn't as good as it needed to be. I guess I'll just have to break the outdoor record."
Woods then went on to finish fifth in the triple jump with a jump of 50 feet, 2? inches. However, his two points were crucial to the Wildcats' overall team effort.
"I was really tired from the high jump, and I just didn't have much left for the triple jump," he said. "But I'll be ready when outdoors rolls around."
St. Augustine's, however, began to pile up points, taking as much as a 16-point lead over ACU (58-42) after the 400. ACU, though, turned the meet around in three of the last four events.
Redshirt freshman Nic Alexander, who predicted on Friday that he would win the 55 meters, did just that, upsetting defending champion Deworski Odom of St. Augustine's, to get ACU rolling. Alexander's teammate, Oscar Meneses, finished fifth to add two more points and pull the Wildcats to within 66-54.
Then came the biggest turning point of the men's meet: the 800 meters.
Both ACU and St. Augustine's had two runners in the event, but only ACU got significant points from its athletes. John Kemboi and Gilbert Tuhabonye finished second and third, respectively, to give ACU 14 big points. For St. Augustine's, meanwhile, Tron Cravis finished sixth for one point and Joshua Hamilton finished eighth for no points, and the Wildcats had the overall point lead at 68-67.
"I could really feel the momentum shift after the 800," Woods said. "We knew what had to happen in the last few events, and the guys just went out and did it."
Alfred Rugema - who earlier in the day broke the Division II indoor record on his way to winning the mile - then put on a spectacular performance in the 5,000 meters to finish second to defending champion Michael Aish of Western State (Colo.).
Rugema, whose personal best in the event was 14 minutes, 11 seconds, ran an incredible 21 seconds faster, posting a time of 13:49.65 to give the Wildcats eight valuable points.
"I don't know how I can explain running that much faster," Rugema said. "I really trained hard, and I was ready to run fast today. He (Aish) ran strong, and I knew that it was going to be one of the two of us that won the race."
The Wildcats led by nine points, 76-67, going into the 4x400 relay, and needed just two points to secure the championship. The Wildcats got four with a fourth-place finish to beat St. Augustine's.
Alexander and Rugema turned in two of the most amazing performances of the day for the ACU men, winning the 55 meters and the mile, respectively.
Alexander, who had never run indoors prior to this season, followed through with his prediction of victory, running a personal-best 6.20 seconds to knock off Odom.
"I had a much better start (Saturday) than I did Friday," Alexander said. "From the moment I took off I knew I would win. My start was much faster than his, and after we got into the race he had no chance to catch me. I'm confident going into every race, and I was very confident (Saturday)."
Prior to his performance in the 5,000 meters, Rugema topped the Division II indoor record in the mile, running a 4:02.92 to break the record of 4:03.71, set last year by Nic Burrow of South Dakota State. Rugema's teammates Kemboi and Tuhabonye finished second and fifth, respectively, to give the Wildcats 22 points in the event.
"I didn't know that I had broken the record, but I could tell the time would be fast," Rugema said.
Right after the mile, Shaka Huggins finished second to Odom in the 55 hurdles, running a personal-best 7.41 for eight points.
Those points helped set the Wildcats up for their final charge to the championship.
And with the way everything fell into place for the Wildcats on Saturday, they're now on the fast-track for another sweep.
"This could definitely be the third team to win all four championships," Woods said. "(On the men's side) We'll have our freshmen sprinters outdoors, and they'll be much better outdoors. And the girls came up here with seven people and won the championship. With their whole team at outdoors they'll be tough to beat."