The Pitt State men’s track and field team travelled to Birmingham, Ala. to compete in the NCAA Division II Indoor Championships from Thursday, Mar. 11 through Saturday, Mar. 13.
The Gorillas earned fifth place at the national competition with a total of 30 points.
Ashland took the men’s championship with 70 points, followed by Grand Valley State with 53 points.
“…It wasn’t perfect, but it was a really outstanding competition by our guys,” said Head Coach Russ Jewett. “Very proud of that. Anytime you can finish fifth at the national championships under all the circumstances that we’ve gone through, we’re extremely happy with that.”
Trey Mooney, junior in physical education, won the heptathlon with a personal best and set a new school record.
“The team did absolutely amazing,” Mooney said. “Anytime you make it to nationals, no matter what you rank that’s a huge accomplishment. If it wasn’t for my teammate Hunter Jones, I don’t think I would’ve beat Pitt State’s record and become a national champion.”
Hunter Jones earned All-America honors with a sixth-place finish in the heptathlon. The distance medley relay of Connar Southard, Graham Hudelson, Matt Wilson and Mason Strader won the race, beating out Grand Valley State by .01 second, while also setting a new school record. Strader garnered All-America honors with his sixth-place finish in the mile run. The 4x400m relay of Sam Tudor, Nizar Alarahshun, Graham Hudelson and Bailey Stone placed fifth and earned All-America honors.
“We had a guy that won a national championship— Trey Mooney,” Jewett said. “(He) set a school record, number eight all time performance in division II, won the heptathlon… I think that distance medley relay was a pretty special big upset win. They produced a number eight all time in division II history as well. Southard, Huddleston, Wilson, and Strader. It was crazy race that ended up with a protest at the end because we thought we won it then we had to wait for the referees to decide on a couple of protests that were submitted that involved us. Finally, after… nearly an hour, we learned that we did indeed win the thing. So, that was exciting. We had some other scores. It’s hard to score at the national meet… (The) 4×400 with Tudor, Alarahshun, Hudelson, and Stone (won) fifth place… None of those guys had ever been to nationals before… None of those folks that I mentioned before had even been to nationals to compete. We went last year, and they had to go home. Mason Strader… also got sixth in the mile run and that was really challenging because of the tight turn around between the prelims of the mile and the distance medley relay on day one… Hunter Jones, redshirt freshman, sixth place in the heptathlon, that’s pretty amazing at a national championship. So, lots of good stuff.”
Mooney compiled 5,567 points in the heptathlon.
“Usually, heptathlons are a war to the finish anyways but for some reason it felt like a battle,” Mooney said. “I remember talking to God in the middle of the event and him telling me I’m going to have to work to do what I accomplished. So.., it was a battle to win and I couldn’t (have) done it without God either.”
Moving forward, the track and field team will begin focusing on the outdoor events. First up is the Emporia Spring Invitational on Friday, Mar. 19.
“Well, we’re going to have a very small squad going there, primarily throwers who did not to get to do their outdoor event indoor,” Jewett said. “So, we’re (going to) have the hammer throw, the javelin thrower, the discus throw, those outdoor events that you don’t see in indoor track and field and those are primarily the folks that we’re taking. Those guys are all chomping at the bit. They’ll be excited to throw. The weather might not be awesome, but it’ll be good enough… Some of those guys haven’t thrown for two years almost because we didn’t get a season last year. So, they are really leaning into this one.”