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David Pless '13 became Bates' first NCAA champion in two years. (File photo by Tom Leonard '78)

See YouTube video links at the bottom of this story.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In all of the proud history of throwers on the Bates College men's track and field program, the Bobcats have never boasted an All-American shot putter. Now, they have two, including an NCAA champion.

Bates sophomore David Pless (Atlanta, Ga.) captured first place in the shot Saturday at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships, and passed his own school record, with a top effort of 56 feet, 6 inches. Pless's senior teammate, Ethan Waldman (Playa del Rey, Calif.), meanwhile, finished sixth in the event at 53-11.75, becoming the team's third All-American in the past two days. (Senior Chris Murtagh placed fifth in the weight throw yesterday.)

"There are so many variables in [a shot putter's] rotation technique, but today it was just on," said Pless. "This is a great day to be a Bobcat."

In the first NCAA Championship appearance for all three of the Bates men at the meet, the Bobcats managed to finish in seventh place out of 66 scoring teams at the meet, with 17 points.

The 6-foot-5 Pless acknowledged feeling plenty of butterflies prior to the competition, held at Capital University. "I'm really proud of myself for controlling my nervousness. I think that's one of the best things about this," he said. "I wanted it, and I worried about it, but I overcame that."

Bates head coach Al Fereshetian said he was "overwhelmed" by the events of the day. "For David to pull all of that together in his first time at nationals is just amazing. He stayed composed and executed right off the bat, and from there he really got into it. And to be honest, this was a phenomenal day, but there's more to come from him."

Ethan Waldman '11 joined the ranks of Bates' All-Americans, and is just the second ever in the shot put. (File photo by Tom Leonard '78)

Pless quickly moved to the head of the pack in his preliminary flight, with an outstanding initial put of 16.58 meters. He moved up to 16.62 on his second attempt, and on his third attempt he broke his former Bates record in the indoor shot put of 55-02.75 by going 56-6, or 17.22 meters.

Waldman competed in the second preliminary flight and all but ensured a place in the finals with a strong first attempt of 15.49 meters, which put him in eighth place at the start of the finals. In the finals he went 16.15, then 16.45, or 53-11.75, to move up two places. Entering the competition, Pless was the sixth seed, and Waldman was seeded 10th.

"I'm extremely proud of Ethan. He has such a great, competitive nature, and it's a big motivation for me to try to match him," said Pless.

Pless first took up track and field in eighth grade, after getting cut from a baseball team. Enthusiasm for the sport has turned to passion since coming to Bates, he said, and having Waldman as a teammate has fueled Pless's drive on a daily basis. Waldman set the team's seven-year-old indoor shot put record at the State Championships in February, but Pless reset the mark two weeks later.

Pless's parents, Dana Halberg and Larry Pless, were sitting nearby as Pless spoke on the phone after his performance, "crying like babies," he said. "My parents made this happen. They've always pushed me to do well and instilled a great work ethic in me, but never in an overbearing way."

Pless's desire to take his athletic career to new heights was manifested in a strenuous training routine he adopted last summer, paying for his own athletic trainer in the Atlanta area for four sessions a week, driving an hour and a half round-trip to get there. He paid for the personal training by working full-time as a cashier at a grocery store. By the end of the summer, he says, he had boosted all of his lifts by 80 pounds.

"I'm more than willing to put in the work, and I'm really glad it's showing results this early in my career," he said. "But if I made All-American just once, as a senior, it would be totally worth it. I love track and field. I think I like practicing even more than meets."

After Murtagh's performance yesterday, Bates had 25 athletes who had won a total of 29 All-America awards in indoor track and field. Seventeen of the 29 were in the 35-pound weight throw. Bates men have also won 45 All-America honors in outdoor track and field, 23 of them in throwing events, but none in the shot put.

Pless's title is the sixth NCAA championship ever claimed by Bates in men's indoor track and field, and the 15th in indoor and outdoor track and field combined. The team's last NCAA crown came in 2008, when Noah Gauthier '08 won the weight throw title. Bates' last NCAA title in any sport occurred in May 2009, when Ben Stein '09 and Amrit Rupasinghe '10 won the Division III doubles championship in men's tennis.

Chris Murtagh '11 finished fifth in the weight throw Friday for his first All-America award, and the first by any Bates athlete so far this academic year. (File photo by Tom Leonard '78)

Friday Recap

Bates senior Chris Murtagh won his first All-America honors on Friday, placing fifth in the 35-pound weight throw at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field with a clutch performance.

Murtagh (Rowley, Mass.) stood in fifth place after his fifth throw, his second of the finals round. Two competitors passed Murtagh on their penultimate throws, but on his final effort of the season Murtagh threw the weight 19.19 meters, or 62-11.50, passing both aforementioned men and moving back into fifth place. The top eight finishers are awarded NCAA All-America honors.

Murtagh's final distance would have been good enough for first place in the event last year.

Murtagh made the finals with his second throw of the preliminary round, at 18.65 meters. He moved up into fifth place, temporarily, with his first throw in the finals, at 19.00 meters even.

"Chris did a fantastic job of competing today, and now we get to put his plaque up on the wall in Merrill," said Fereshetian, referring to the track and field teams' plaques recognizing all of Bates' All-Americans. "I think this sets him up for a great outdoor season." Murtagh is a five-time All-NESCAC performer in outdoor track and field, including two conference javelin titles.

It is Bates' 17th All-America performance all-time in the weight throw, and Murtagh becomes the 12th Bates man to achieve the honor. He became Bates' first indoor All-American since Gauthier won the NCAA weight throw title in 2008 with a top throw of 63-01.50.

Final NCAA Championships Results

Links to YouTube videos from the NCAA Championships by Ira Waldman '73:

David Pless's winning shot put

Ethan Waldman's top shot put

Shot Put Award Ceremony

Chris Murtagh's top weight throw

Weight Throw Award Ceremony