By ELLIOTT DENMAN
PRINCETON, N.J. - “We’ve had a great season and this just adds to it.”
Norm Oglivie, Duke University’s director of track and field and head coach, had a smile miles wide late Sunday afternoon, as he explained how his Blue Devils, men and women, ran off with twin team titles and carved out a big piece of history in the Northeast’s longest-running undergraduate track extravaganza.
The Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America (IC4A) is a league dating its history back to 1876 (the first winner: Princeton) and has held its men’s championship meet 135 times in the ensuing 136 years (lone exception: the World War I-cancelled 1917 meet.).
For the first time in that long stretch, however, the winning team hails from south of the Virginia border. Oglivie’s Blue Devils, of Durham, N.C., did it over the weekend at Princeton’s Weaver Stadium, rolling up 74.5 points to out-distance a pack of pursuers led by runner-up George Mason (61 points) and third-place Albany (55), with 46 other schools in the IC4A’s 99-team membership (geographically Maine to North Carolina, East Coast out to Indiana) breaking into the scoring column.
The jointly-staged women’s Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship meet is a comparative newcomer on the track and field block, with a history just 28 years old. Penn State won that first ECAC meet in 1984 but for 27 years no winner came from south of Virginia, either. All that changed Sunday when all the points were totaled and the Duke women had netted 73.75 to hold off runner-up Connecticut (65) and third-place University of Virginia (61.5.) ECAC women’s scoring was even more diverse than the IC4A men’s meet with 53 schools netting at least a point.
Connecticut’s men and women had scored this IC4A-ECAC double in 2010, but there was no catching Duke this time.
Duke began netting big points Friday and simply kept on rolling in both meets, with a winning combination of veteran talent and hot young prospects.
“Our seniors were great, but we did it with balance,” said Oglivie. “Duke has been known for its distance forces in the past - I think we’ve won three consecutive IC4A cross country championships - but we’ve reached out, with the support of our administration, into the field events and that really made the difference for us this weekend.”
If there was a single Blue Devil who leaped out at you it had to be freshman high jumper Tanner Anderson, out of East Burke High School in Valdese, N.C.
Not only did he soar to the greatest heights of his life - a winning clearance of 2.24 meters/ 7 feet 4 1/4 inches - but he beat out another sensational freshman, Penn’s Maalik Reynolds, the Penn Relays champion, who settled for second at 2.18/ 7-1 3/4. They did this undercover at Jadwin Gymnasium - as morning rain forced the jumpers to seek shelter.
“That means I’ll get credit for a Duke indoor record, not an outdoor one, but that’s OK with me,” said Anderson. “Either way, I’m pretty happy about the way it turned out.”
Anderson had two misses at on the way up, one at 7-0 1/4 and another at 7-3, before clearing 7-3 on second attempt and then 7-4 1/4 on first try to clinch it. He called it a day after a single attempt at 2.27 / 7-5 ½.
“It kind of all clicked together today,” said Anderson. “The 2.27, that was the Olympic B standard; to clear that would have been awesome. But I twinged my knee a little, and stopped right there.”
Beyond the NCAA’s, his big goals: The USATF Junior Nationals and the Pan American Junior Championships.
“Tanner Anderson is one of the few guys on our team from the state of North Cariolina,” Oglivie said. “Duke, we’re pretty much a national university and we recruit everywhere, in fact we have a heavy recruiting base in the Northeast.
“Tanner is amazing, he is absolutely the real deal. We have no idea how good he’ll eventually be, but we certainly have major-major hopes for him. That 7-4 1/4 indoors is big-time. He has the potential to be a 7-6, 7-7 guy, at least. He was a phenom in high school (as N.C. state record-holder at 7-3 ½.) He has all the tools to be very-very-good. My wife (Jan Oglivie) is actually our high jump coach, so she deserves a lot of credit, too."
With another freshman, Michael Krone, placing fifth at 6-10 3/4, the Blue Devils should be scoring big-time points in the HJ clear through to 2014.
Having an excellent meet at Princeton, too, was Duke sophomore all-arounder Curtis Beach. The Albuquerque, N.M. product won the long jump by going a personal-best 24-3 ½. His best individual event, though, is the 800 meters, where he’s a 1:48 man.
“If the team score was really close, and we really needed him to anchor the 4x8, we could have brought him in,” said Oglivie. “ But that wasn’t necessary. We were too far ahead by then.”
Next up: look for Beach to do very big things in the decathlon at the NCAA Regionals and Nationals.
Ten more Duke points: steeplechaser Ryan McDermott raced to an 8:46.68 win over Rider’s Mike Soroko (8:49.63.)
Leading lights for the Duke women’s team included Juliet Bottoorff (9:25.44) and Madeline Morgan (9:27.49), who grabbed the 1-3 places in the 3,000-meter run; Carly Seymour, the 5,000-meter champion in 16:30.80, and Andrea Hopkins, javelin winner at 154-7.
“We really weren’t sure that our women could win, but they had a dynamic second day, and really came through at the end of the meet,” said Oglivie. “ That 1-3 in the 3,000 was big, then we won the 4x8 (with Gabby Levac, Rebecca Craigie, Esther Vermeer and Kate Van Buskirk running 8:44.38.)
Leading IC4A field-event titlists included Albany pole vaulter Luke Schoen (16-10 3/4). George Mason triple jumper Lavell Handy (53- 3 3/4), Rutgers discus thrower James Plummer (188-1) and William and Mary javelinist Brandon Heroux (240-9.)
Back on the track, Hampton’s Reggie Dixon (10.45) and Morgan State’s Calvin Dascent (20.96) took the sprints; Geroge Mason’s David Verburg sped a 46.09 400, VMI’s Felix Kitur took the 800 in 1:48.41; Albany’s Paul Lagno blazed a 3;44.66 1500 meters, Army’s Domonick Sylve zipped the 110 highs in 13.77, and Morgan State’s Trey Charles won the 400 hurdles in 50.54.
In a sizzling concluding 4x400 relay, Delaware State (3:04.49) fought off George Mason (3:04.77.)
Liberty U. produced the meet’s top all-arounders: IC4A decathlon champion Geren Woodbridge (7016 points) and ECAC heptathlon winner Christina Mitchell (4767.)
Women’s sprint crowns went to Syracuse’s Flings Owusu-Agyapong (11.79) and Pitt’s Cambrya Jones (23,73.)
Other top ECAC winners on the track: Delaware’s Victoria Caruso (54.08 400), Yale’s Kate Grace (4:20.66 1500), Iona’s Marion Joly-Testault (35:49.70 10,000), Villanova’s Shericka Ward (13.45 100 hurdles) and Virginia's Ayla Smith (57.42 400 hurdles.) LIU took the 4x100 in 45.52 over Morgan State (45.88.) Georgetown (3:38.61) outdueled Hamton (3:39.29) in the 4x400. Host Princeton’s lone winner was pole vaulter Tory Worthen (12-8.) In a battle of freshman high jumpers, Connecticut’s Ilva Bikanova (5-11 1/4) prevailed over Maryland’s Amina Smith (5-8 1/4.) UConn senior Tynisha McMillan doubled in the shot put (52-0 1/4) and discus (158-7.)
Even with some defections - some schools sent just partial squads - the IC4A/ECAC Championships again put the best of the sport on display.
Steve Bartold, the former St. John’s 400-meter star who went on to an outstanding coaching career at Yale, is now the IC4A meet administrator, and saw many positive things over the three-day weekend.
“One hundred and thirty-five years, that’s means a lot; we’re the oldest track meet run in the United States," said Bartold. “We’re still healthy. We had tons of schools in the meet and we again had a great team championship, That happens every year.
“The honors are spread out a lot more than they used to. It’s not dominated by any one team, and that makes it an even better meet. A lot of teams come here thinking they having a chance. Most of them accomplish what they wanted. We had a lot of great performances. A lot of guys ran fast, jumped high, and threw far.”