Region Well Represented at NCAA Track
By DOUG EATON
The Tulsa area was well represented at the 2013 Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships held recently at Fayetteville on the University of Arkansas campus.
All three athletes, two from the University of Tulsa and one from Oral Roberts University, came home with First-Team All-American honors.
TU Senior Chris O’Hare, who was the defending 2012 indoor mile champion, advanced to the mile finals after running a strong race in the preliminaries.
O’Hare had the second best time in his heat of 4:01.76, being edged out only by Robbie Creese of Penn State, who ran 4:01.67.
O’Hare, who spent much of the first part of the Friday prelim in the rear of the pack, seemed to effortlessly shift into high gear at about the half mile mark to move into first place and simply coasted to the finish as he just had to finish in the top four to advance to Saturday’s finals.
The finals featured the three top collegians that recently competed at the Millrose Games in New York City in February. At that meet, O’Hare shattered the collegiate record in the indoor mile as he recorded an amazing time of 3:52.98 while competing against Arizona’s Lawi Lalang and Ryan Hill of North Carolina State.
In the finals, O’Hare jumped off to a fast start and quickly grabbed the lead for the first few laps (of the eight-lap mile race) on the track at the Randal Tyson Track Center, often considered to be one of the fastest tracks in the country.
Lalang and Hill then both moved and caught up with O’Hare at about the half-mile mark.
The pace quickened as Lalang stretched out his lead, and O’Hare found himself back in fifth place.
Despite his best efforts, O’Hare finished in seventh place in a time of 4:02.96.
Lalang won the mile in 3:54.74, and Hill finished second in 3:55.25.
“I felt really good going into the race and was very confident, “ O’Hare said of the finals.
“The first half mile everything was perfect, and I was right where I wanted to be. I just didn’t have it at the finish. I had a good season, but I am disappointed how it finished.”
The senior from Edinburgh, Scotland enjoyed a remarkable running career at TU, including setting school records in the 800 meters, the 1,000 meters and the mile. He was recently named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Division I Midwest Region Men’s Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.
O’Hare now sets his sights on the World Championships to be held at Moscow in August.
TU freshman Bryce Robinson competed in the men’s 60 meter dash at the meet.
He survived two false starts by other runners in the prelims and finished third in his heat as he clocked 6.64 seconds, which was the sixth fastest in the round and earned the freshman from Edmond Memorial a spot in Saturday’s finals.
“During the two false starts, I ran about 40 meters each time,” Robinson says. “It was pretty tiring, but it kind of helped me out as I had two bad starts. The third start was my best start.”
In Saturday’s finals, the freshman from Edmond Memorial captured sixth place in a time of 6.69 seconds.
Of the five runners who finished ahead of him, four are seniors and one a freshman so Robinson seems to have a bright future in the sprints.
Pole vaulter Jack Whitt of Oral Roberts University was the third member of the trio from Tulsa to make his mark at the 2013 National Indoor Championships.
The defending title holder of the 2012 Outdoor Championships, Whitt had also finished third in the 2012 Indoor Championships.
Whitt found himself in a tight, four-way fight for the pole vault crown with Andrew Irwin of Arkansas, Sam Kendricks of Mississippi and Jake Blankenship of Tennessee.
Whitt passed at two of the first three heights and missed just once out of his first five attempts and cleared 18 feet, 4.5 inches along with the other three final competitors.
Irwin, the defending indoor champion, and who being from Arkansas, enjoyed the “home-crowd advantage,” clearing 18 feet, 8.25 inches.
Irwin then missed at 18 feet, 10 inches, and Whitt had one last opportunity to clear that height to win the gold.
But unable to clear that height, Whitt had to settle for second place, placing ahead of Kendricks and Blankenship on the number of misses.
“Of course I’m disappointed in not winning. This was probably the most competitive finals in history. But at the same time, it was the best indoor season I’ve had,” Whitt says.
With the second place finish, Whitt now has garnered All-American honors a total of six times.
One of the most decorated and honored vaulters in both the Summit League and Southland Conference history, the 6 foot 4 senior from Norman North High School looks forward to the 2013 outdoor season, and later in the season, the World Championships this summer.