WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- This weekend, seven Wiliams College male student-athletes will compete in the 2018 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship, held in Birmingham, Alabama. The Ephs have qualified for NCAAs in the heptathlon, 800 meter run, distance medley relay, and 3000 meter run. The athletes competing will all be at least aiming for a top-8 finish in order to score points for the team and garner All-America honors. Williams is currently ranked 14th in the nation by the United States Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
At NCAAs, as at nearly every track meet, 1st place is awarded 10 points, 2nd 8, and then 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 point respectively for the successive places following. A score in the mid-30s or 40s tends to be enough to win the NCAA Championship, with a score of around 30 enough for a podium position (top-4 overall).
Competing in the heptathlon will be senior co-captain Tobias Muellers '18 and first-year Dan Renwick '21. Seeded 10th with 4930 points, Muellers will be competing in his 4th consecutive NCAA Championship. In the decathlon at last year's Outdoor Championship, Muellers finished 2nd in the nation. At last year's Indoor Championship, he earned his first All-American accolade with an 8th place finish, scoring 4872 points.
Renwick, by contrast, will be competing in his first NCAA Championship, and will only be contesting his second heptathlon ever (having qualified for NCAAs after his debut performance). An extremely accomplished high jumper, long jumper, hurdler, and sprinter, Renwick is contesting the pole vault for the first time this season, and has improved by leaps and bounds. In his qualifying heptathlon, Renwick cleared 3 meters, scoring 357 points, although his personal best was 3.5 meters, which would have scored 482 points. Ranked 13th in the standings now, if Renwick can master the pole vault and hold steady at the other six events this weekend, he will be in position to achieve a top-3 finish.
Kevin LaFleche '20 will compete in the 800 this weekend. LaFleche has been consistently improving this season, lowering his 800 time by a few tenths of a second (either on a banked track or converted to a banked track time) each week, culminating in his 1:52.23 (converted) qualifying run last Saturday. Known for his tendency to lay off the pace early and then ferociously kick it home over the last 200 meters, LaFleche is a danger in any race, doubly so if his competitors are reluctant to set a hard pace.
Peter Kirgis '20, LaFleche, Tristan Colaizzi '20, and Lucas Estrada '20 will compete in the distance medley relay as the 1200, 400, 800, and 1600 legs, respectively. Kirgis and Colaizzi will be reprising their roles on the 2017 5th place DMR squad.
Kirgis has been rock-solid this season, improving his personal bests at the 1000 and 3000, while showing flashes of brilliance during relay legs of the 1200 and 1600 as well. The 2nd place finisher in the 1000 at Division III New Englands in 2:30.56, Kirgis will be aiming for a fast 1200 on the banked track at Birmingham.
Colaizzi has also steadily improved this season, testing his speed in the 600 and strength in the mile, while patiently chipping away at his 800-meter seasonal best every couple weeks, lowering it from 1:59.19 to a school record 1:51.91. On a relay squad, and with the team on his back, Colaizzi has the potential to run even faster Friday.
LaFleche will run the 400 leg of the DMR after competing in the preliminary round of the 800. LaFleche is a versatile athlete, competitive in events ranging from the 400 to the 8k. His cross country endurance will help him recover from his 800 in time to run a fast 400 leg to help his team.
Anchoring the relay will be Estrada, the Ephs' biggest surprise this season. After having missed a full competitive season due to lingering illness, when Estrada got healthy, he began an astonishing ascension. After running a mile in 4:27 unattached in December, Estrada got faster each race: 4:23.65 at Middlebury; 4:23.04 at Tufts; 4:16.27 at Division III New Englands; finally, a 4:10.98 at BU, the fastest mile run by an Eph in 4 years. Few other than Estrada would have expected him to be in the position that he is now before this season. On Friday, Estrada will be looking to put an exclamation point on an already fantastic season.
Having a similarly ascendant season is Liam Simpson '18, who will be competing in the 3000 meters. Simpson's first three races of the season were solid, but nothing special—an 8:50.87 season opener; an 8:39.24 two weeks later; an 8:35.51 two weeks after that, enough for a 5th place finish at Division III New Englands. That all changed last Saturday. Competing in what might have been his last indoor race ever, Simpson ran a seasonal best by 16 seconds, and a personal best by 5—an 8:19.44 win at the Tufts Last Chance meet. Converted to a banked track time of 8:13.70, Simpson is now 2nd in the nation. Competing on Saturday with few expectations and nothing to lose, Simpson should be capable of ending his indoor track career with a bang.
Eph head Coach Ethan Barron is proud of his athletes competing this weekend, even as he was quick to note that. "It's not a good use of time and energy to focus on where we'll finish as a team or individuals." Instead, Barron pointed to the team's intangibles: "We've always been great executors. It's a strength that we have. Sometimes we allow it to mute our emotional fire. That has its time and place. Recently, I've seen this crew really blend the two. Both the passion and the execution have merged into a complete attack of their events. We'll look to continue that this weekend."
The meet will begin with the men's heptathlon on Friday at 10 AM. Action will conclude Saturday at 5:20 PM, with the women's 4x400.