PITTSBURG — Two years after the Pittsburg State women’s track & field team took home the NCAA DII Outdoor National Championship, the Gorilla men came through with their first national title on March 10 inside the Robert W. Plaster Center.
With all eyes on the scoreboard as the last event came to a close, the celebration began when the Gorillas saw they edged Tiffin University by one point to win it all.
“It was sort of surreal,” PSU head coach Russ Jewett said. “We saw the finish of the 4X400, and in our heads, I figured won, but until you see it on the scoreboard it doesn’t become reality. We were certainly excited when we saw that we were in first place once the final scores were on the board. It was just euphoria.”
Despite not being among the favorites going into the weekend, the host Gorillas willed themselves to victory on the strength of several standout performances.
“Some of our kids had lifetime bests at nationals,” Jewett said. “When you look across the board at nationals, there aren’t many lifetime bests, but our kids came up with quite a few. That was the difference I guess.”
No performance was bigger than team captain Bo Farrow’s, as he set a personal record to win the shot put with a throw good for 62 feet and 2.5 inches.
“Bo has always been a really great competitor on the big stage and when his team needs him the most,” Jewett said. “He certainly delivered on that end. I didn’t see that far of a throw coming, but I’m sure coach [Brian] Mantooth did. He was a catalyst and it was a huge emotional lift at that time.”
Winning the national title came on the heels of both teams winning the MIAA championship under the same roof the week before.
“We’re a big conference team,” Jewett said. “We like to build a balanced team and be the best in our conference. I think we do a good job of that. We had just come off an emotional victory in the conference championship in our own building. Sometimes it can be hard to recover from that and get refocused, but the coaches and some of the athletes did a good job with leadership. That really propelled us into the national championship with some confidence.”
The Pitt State women’s team also had a successful weekend, finishing in fourth place for the second consecutive year with help from second-place finishes by Emilee Iverson in the high jump (5-9.75) and Courtney Nelson in the 60-meter hurdles (8.33).
“A top-five finish at the national level is something to be proud of,” Jewett said. “We had some outstanding individual performances on the women’s side. Emilee Iverson came up huge with her best championship jump ever, and I’m really proud of her. Courtney Nelson finished up a great indoor track & field career. I was also proud of the 4X400 team for scratching out the one point that gave us a chance at a podium spot. We didn’t have the best team in the race, but they earned that one point that gave us a chance at a podium spot.”
As special as winning the championship was, Jewett said doing it on your home turf made the weekend even more memorable.
“Hosting is sort of a double-edged sword, but we were really thankful to host the event and we’re certainly willing to wear the two hats,” Jewett said. “It seemed like we were putting on different hats throughout the meet, trying to put out little fires as the host and also coach our athletes, but with the support of our administration and all of the volunteers, it really came together without many glitches.”
With everybody in the program contributing, Jewett said winning the championship was a team effort.
“It takes a lot of hard work,” he said. “That’s what it boils down to. You just have to be willing to put in hours, and I’m just proud of our coaches for the time they’ve invested and thankful to their families for allowing them to make that sacrifice. I’m also thankful for the student-athletes who bought into the program and made those sacrifices as well.”
As the trophy sits on display inside the Pittsburg State track & field offices, it acts as a standard for future Gorilla teams to meet.
“It’s just a culmination of everything coming together at the right time,” Jewett said. “From folks making it possible to host the national championship here, to coaches and athletes working hard throughout the summer and up to the days leading to the national championship. It was really just a magical weekend, and on a deep level, bringing all of these people together for a common cause is really cool.”
— Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.