Sports

Men’s track and field relay takes fourth in UCS Invitational

Distance medley relay ranks twelfth nationally, could qualify for national championships

By
Staff Writer
Thursday, February 22, 2018

On Friday, four members of the men’s track and field team — Captain Tosin Oyewole ’18, Captain Zack Emrich ’18, Zachary Lanigan ’20 and Martin Martinez ’18 — flew to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to compete in the UCS Invitational, squaring off against some of the nation’s top teams in the distance medley relay. Bruno upset several NCAA powerhouses — including Arkansas, Florida and Virginia — to take fourth place over the 4,000-meter distance. After applying the NCAA’s flat-track conversion rate, Brown’s cumulative time of 9:37.6translates to 9:29.9 for national qualification purposes.

Brown’s time currently ranks twelfth on the national list. After the qualification window closes Feb. 25, the top 12 DMR squads in the country will receive berths to next month’s NCAA Division I Indoor National Championship in College Station, Texas. With only one weekend’s worth of meets remaining in the qualifying period, the Bears will punch their tickets to Texas if they hold their position.

Head Coach Tim Springfield tabbed Lanigan — who boasts the second-fastest times in the Ivy League this season for both 800 and 1,000 meters — to lead off for the Bears.

The race “was a little rough in the beginning. … I was aggressive in holding my ground,” Lanigan said. Robert Domanic, “the 3:54 miler from Ole Miss, came up on my shoulder. He tried to cut my lane, so I gave him a bit of a push. The Ole Miss coach actually yelled at me.”

Though Lanigan kept pace with the frontrunners for most of the opening 1,200-meter leg, the Australian’s wheels fell off a bit in the final stretch.

“I think my race ended at about the 1,120 (meter mark). I kind of faded a little bit,” Lanigan said. He nevertheless recorded a strong time of 2:57.8 for his carry, crossing the line in fifth position, 2.7 seconds out of first.

The team’s 400-meter man, Oyewole, took off like a shot upon receiving the baton from Lanigan. For an intense 49.34 seconds, the senior captain wrestled with centripetal force, delivering his team to the handoff zone in sixth place overall.

Oyewole was unhappy with his performance, explaining that a long-standing lower back complaint, aggravated by the unbanked track surface, had restricted his speed around the curves.

“I hate (the flat track) with a burning passion, especially with my lower back injury. Running those tight turns on a flat track really does not translate well for me,” he said. “But you have to put those excuses aside and try to give your teammates the best performance you can.”

One captain handed off to another as Emrich set off on the third 800-meter leg of the relay. Though he was 4.2 seconds behind the leaders at the outset, Emrich remained undaunted.

“I was just focused on competing with the guys in front of me,” he said. “A race environment with that much intensity — it’s really easy to bring it, especially when you’re surrounded by your teammates.” Emrich, whose 1:50.3 split time was the third-fastest in the field, passed a flagging rival from Virginia to lift Brown into fifth place.

Then it was all down to Martinez on the 1,600-meter closing leg. The sub-four miler sprinted to catch the leaders. “I went out in about 27 (seconds) for the first 200 (meters) and about 57 (seconds) for the 400, which obviously isn’t ideal if you’re trying to run a fast time,” Martinez said. “I was really hurting at 600.” Despite the blazing early pace, Martinez closed strongly, coming home fourth in a time of 4:00.2 — the second-fastest split of the day. 

At the finish, Brown’s contingent of coaches and athletes burst into celebration. “Our head coach, Tim Springfield — when he’s very excited, he likes to give this Tiger Woods fist pump,” Oyewole said. “He did exactly that when Martin crossed the line.”

“We were hooting and hollering, running around with each other,” Emrich added. “I don’t think anyone got to bed before 1:30 in the morning, we were so amped up on adrenaline and nervous energy.”

Having made their best effort to qualify for nationals, all the quartet can do is wait and see if their time will still rank in the top 12 come Feb. 25. “We’re hoping that we’re safe. There’s a little bit of uncertainty around that, but we think we have a pretty good shot right now,” Martinez said.

Oyewole put it even more succinctly: “I’m praying that we make it.”