By: John Cusick
Here at The Stride Report we try to give you articles that will either inform you, or at the very least, keep you entertained. We’ve done our best at the guessing game and it’s worked out relatively well, but what if you missed the big weekend? Surely, missing the two biggest track meets wasn’t in your plans, but it happened. Don’t worry. We have you covered.
Remember how I told you the Division II meet wouldn’t disappoint? Go look at the races and tell me it was a disappointment. I’m not talking times like Division I (because it’s hard to compete with World, American, Collegiate Records), but I’m talking about times that got track fans standing on their feet, cheering for someone they are most likely not associated with.
Thomas Staines equaled his season best when he ran 1:47.23 and bested Decano Cronin by more than a second in the 800 meter final. It’s no surprise that Staines broke out this year after spending his freshman year somewhat struggling. After all, his parents are Gary and Linda who ran for the British Olympic team in Seoul during the 1988 Summer Olympics.
Staines had already run 1:47 coming into the national meet and was a strong favorite to win the event. Sure enough, he laid down a dominant performance. He would have run sub-1:47 if he didn’t throw his hands out at the end, but I’d also have trouble containing my elation if I had just won a national title by more than a second. Fort Hays State’s Decano Cronin kicked hard to finish 2nd, but ran out of real estate as Staines’ gap was too much to make up in the last 150 meters.
I told you Dustin Nading was going to win the mile and he did. According to his teammate David Ribich, Nading was the clear favorite going into the event and he was certainly right. Nading notched his spot in the finals out of the first heat on time. He certainly made it pay off as he fought off Brett Meyer of Fort Hays State in the last 50 meters. Nading’s first national title has now allowed Western Oregon to claim both the true and metric Mile races. Although I can’t confirm, I’m sure that we will see both Nading and Ribich run the 1500 during the outdoor season.
The 3000 meters may have been the most exciting race from start to finish as Sydney Gidabuday defended his crown with an exhilarating finish. Tiffin’s James Ngandu took the lead from the gun and tried to tire the legs of Gidabuday and Ribich early. Unfortunately for Ngandu, his place backfired as Ngandu ran out of steam and was overcome in the end.
With 300 meters to go it was down to three athletes, Ribich, Gidabuday and Harding’s Nehemia Too. As they rounded the last turn, it looked as if Ribich was going to be in control down the homestretch. The Western Oregon star came out of the turn on the outside of lane one which gave Gidabuday just enough room to make a move on the inside. Ribich cited tactical errors on Facebook and it cost him two spots as Gidabuday crossed the line in 1st to defend his national title from last year. Less than a quarter of a second separated the three in the best race of the weekend.
The 5000 meters was featured the night before and surely had something to do with how the athletes attacked the 3000 meter race the next day. Ngandu, Gidabuday, Zach Panning, and Enael Woldemichael quickly separated themselves from the rest of the group. With Ngandu somewhat playing with the field by utilizing inconsistent surges, he seemed to be very confident that he could outlast the other three.
With 1200 meters to go, Ngandu had dropped Woldemichael and Panning and was starting to shake Gidabuday. With 600 meters to go it looked as if Ngandu was on his way to capturing his first track championship. Gidabuday must have sensed that he still had a chance as his pace quickened despite falling behind.
With 200 meters to go, it was obvious that Ngandu had redlined and was struggling to keep his lead. Gidabuday caught the leader as they came out of the final turn and never looked back. He put four seconds between him and the Tiffin distance stud within the last 50 meters. Ngandu was left stunned as he crossed the finish line, giving Gidabuday what was the 5th individual title at the time (he won the 3000 meters giving him his 6th individual title the next day).
The last recap we have is of the Distance Medley Relay. The race ended up being very close as Western Oregon edged out CSU-Pueblo and Grand Valley State by less than half a second in what turned out to be a phenomenal race.
Devundrick Walker ran a helluva 800 leg to give Pueblo the lead. Wuoi Mach of GVSU got the baton in second and stalked Derrick Williams (of CSU Pueblo) up front. Adams State’s Elias Gedyon tried to keep pace and did a really good job of it until 400(ish) meters to go.
At this point, you’re probably wondering where Western Oregon was.
David Ribich got the baton in 8th place. Outside of the Wolves, I don’t think anyone thought they had a chance...at all. Ribich broke the 4:00 barrier earlier in the year when he ran 3:59 but what he did in this relay was nothing short of spectacular. Western Oregon wasn’t even in the video feed until 300 meters to go. Ribich caught Williams and Mach by surprise which led to a frenzied finish that had a lot of people talking. Ribich’s split? 3:55. Defending their title? They did it. It’s up for debate, but I think this year’s win was better than last year’s where they eclipsed Adams State at the finish line.
The Division II National Championships always gives us spectacular finishes that athletes and spectators will talk about for the rest of their lives. At the same time, it's a precursor to some of the biggest storylines we could see in the coming months.
Western Oregon is building a program that wants to contend for team titles on the national level. Sidney Gidabuday became the most decorated individual in Adams State history (let that sink in for a moment). Not to mention, the RMAC came away with three of the four individual titles that were available this past weekend. We haven’t even gotten to outdoor season yet, but we can only predict that there will be more action just like this come the end of May.