LEWISTON, Maine -- Bates Athletic Director Kevin McHugh knew before the start of the 2012 NESCAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships that he'd be presenting the team first-place awards at the end of the day. So the feeling of triumph was mutual when, ringed by crowds of alumni and parents, he handed the plaque to the home team, as the Bobcats erupted in cheers. "It doesn't get much better than that," said McHugh, as the team resolved to follow a garnet Bates banner in a victory lap around the track.
The Bates men outscored runner-up Tufts 156.25 to 146.25 for their second-ever NESCAC title and the first since 2000. The team's lone event winner scored 30 of those points with three first-place finishes. Junior and four-time All-American David Pless (Atlanta, Ga.), who won all three of his throwing events -- the shot put, discus throw and hammer throw -- breaking the meet standard in both the shot put and hammer and setting facility records in all three. A day after breaking the Bates team record in the discus at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, Pless broke his own meet record in the shot put at 57 feet and 2 inches, won the hammer at 194-8 and the discus at 175-9, over four feet beyond the mark he set the day before in Philadelphia.
Middlebury took third place with 124 points, and Williams College finished fourth with 111.75 points, severing a string of 11 straight years in which the Ephs had won the conference championship (including a tie with Tufts in 2007). The last time Williams didn't claim the conference title was 2000 -- Bates' other championship year. Bowdoin, which nipped Bates in the final event of the meet, the distance medley relay, with the same foursome that won the NCAA indoor championship in March (a fraction of a second ahead of Bates), finished fifth with 104 points. Rounding out the team standings, Wesleyan was sixth with 52, followed closely by Amherst with 49; Colby was eighth with 40, Connecticut College was ninth (19), Hamilton was 10th (15.75) and Trinity was 11th (1).
Pless was the Bobcats' only event winner, but of course there were myriad other outstanding performances leading to Bates' winning point total, including:
- In a rematch of their photo finish at indoor nationals in March, Bates beat the facility record time and was edged by 0.32 seconds by Bowdoin in the last event of the day, the distance medley relay, 10:19.98 to 10:20.30. First-year John Stansel (Newburyport, Mass.) led off in the 1,200-meter leg, followed by junior David Hardison (South Portland, Maine) in the 400, senior Peter Corcoran (Stillwater, Minn.) in the 800 and sophomore Noah Graboys (Glencoe, Ill.) in the anchor 1,600-meter leg. Bowdoin's squad was identical to its indoor national championship team, but Graboys was Bates' only repeat performer from the Bobcats' national third-place squad.
- First-year Sean Enos (Lynnfield, Mass.) finished second in the shot put (51-6 1/4), third in the discus (148-7) and third in the hammer (166-6), only six inches shy of runner-up Adam Aronson of Tufts.
- Sophomore Tully Hannan (West Hartford, Conn.) was second in the 5,000, at 14:52.49.
- Senior Sam Goldstein (Memphis, Tenn.) took second place in the pole vault, at 15-3, while sophomore John Wisener (Ridgewood, N.J.) tied for eighth at 13-3 1/2.
- Junior Nick Barron (Kirkwood, Mo.) was second out of 30 competitors and junior James LePage (Cumberland, Maine) was third in the 800 meters, at 1:55.93 and 1:56.67, respectively.
- Bates scored big points in the javelin throw, led by junior Zak Kofos's (Marlborough, Mass.) second-place mark of 170-11. Senior Duncan Briggs (Arrowsic, Maine) was fourth in 159-1, while first-year Jeff Hill (Barrington, R.I.) was fifth at 156-10 and Hardison was seventh at 151-0.
- Bates took third place in the 4x400 relay with a time of 3:23.68 recorded by junior Adam Spencer (Wellesley, Mass.), first-year Eric Wainman (Glastonbury, Conn.), Barron and LePage, who passed Tufts down the final stretch.
- Bates put three runners in the top seven in the 3,000 steeplechase, led by junior Andrew Wortham (Newton, Mass.) in third place at 9:20.11. Senior Ben Chebot (Newton, Mass.) was sixth in 9:33.38, and sophomore Mike Martin (Slatersville, R.I.) was seventh in 9:35.32.
- First-year Isaiah Spofford (Waterville, Maine) was fourth in the 100 meters (10.98).
- Junior Anthony Haeuser (South Portland, Maine) recorded the best prelim time in the 110 high hurdles, at 14.98 seconds, before settling for fourth place in the final at 15.01. Sophomore Jarret McKallagat (Atkinson, N.H.) was fifth in 15.21.
- Graboys took fifth place in the 1,500, at 4:01.82, while Barron finished eighth in 4:03.47.
- Spencer was sixth in the 200 meters (22.61) and eighth in the 400 (52.69).
- Junior Ken Whitney (West Hartford, Conn.) was sixth in the 10,000, at 31:49.13.
- Bates was sixth in the 4x100 relay, as Hardison, junior Tim Woods (Westfield, N.J.), Spencer and Levy finished in 43.56 seconds.
- Haeuser tied for seventh place in the high jump, at 5-11 1/4.
The NESCAC title is at least the 13th ever for a Bates team, but only the third won by a Bates team since 1993: the other two were in men's track and field in 2000 and in women's soccer in 2005.
Bates competes next weekend at the New England Division III Outdoor Championships at MIT.