LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Bates senior David Pless took second place in the shot put on Saturday, only 3 1/2 inches shy of first place, at the NCAA Division III Track & Field Championships, bringing an impressive close to one of the all-time great careers in the history of Division III track and field and Bates athletics with his 10th career All-America award.
The eight team points Pless's (Atlanta, Ga.) performance added to Bates' total allowed the Bobcats to finish with 19 points, ninth-most among 79 scoring teams at the meet. Haverford placed eighth with 23, while Whitworth and Defiance were both a point behind the Bobcats with 18. The Bobcats fielded a program-record seven athletes competing in 10 total events, none of them relays.
The Bobcats, who earlier this season won both the New England Division III and the ECAC Division III team titles, for the second straight year scored the most points of any New England team at the meet.
Pless's first attempt of the day traveled a hefty 17.73 meters -- still 1.13 shy of his career-best 18.86 (61-10.5). He was remarkably consistent from there, going 17.76 on his second attempt and 17.47 on his third, entering finals in second place only to Wisconsin-Oshkosh senior Nick Baatz, who was the national runner-up when Pless won his second of three NCAA indoor shot put titles in 2012.
Baatz raised his top mark to 17.96 on his first attempt of the finals, and it held up as the winning effort of the event. Pless went 17.39 on his first try in the final, then moved up to 17.88 meters (58-8) on his fifth attempt, second in the field only to Baatz's fourth attempt. Pless couldn't improve on his last collegiate shot put attempt, going 16.69, and he settled for second place. It is Pless's second national runner-up performance, after the weight throw at this year's indoor nationals. Pless is the only Division III athlete to shot put more than 60 feet this year, and he did it twice.
Only women's track and field superstar Keelin Godsey '06, a 16-time All-American, has collected more All-America honors in the history of Bates athletics. Pless is also Bates' first three-time NCAA champion.
Sophomore Sean Enos (Lynnfield, Mass.), who placed fourth with a big personal record in the discus throw on Thursday, completed in the first flight of the shot put and didn't foul on his three attempts, but didn't catch a big one, settling for 17th place among 20 competitors with a top effort of 50-8.75.
Senior Nick Barron (Kirkwood, Mo.) finished out his career impressively, placing 10th in the final for the 1,500 meters, with a time of 3:53.13. Barron was seeded 18th out of 20 original entries, but ran the seventh-fastest time in Thursday's prelims to qualify for the final with flying colors. Barron missed a second career All-America award by only two places, and 3.10 seconds.
Junior Mike Martin (Slatersville, R.I.) claimed 14th place in the 3,000-meter steeplechase final, with a time of 9:36.42, subpar compared to the 9:11.82 he ran in prelims on Thursday and his qualifying time of 9:06.19.
Bates senior David Hardison (South Portland, Maine) jumped from eighth to fifth place over the final two events of the decathlon on Friday at the NCAA Division III Track & Field Championships, scoring a career-high 6,541 points and winning his first All-America honor.
Hardison’s feat offset three of his teammates missing out on finals on Friday: Pless in the hammer throw, and senior James LePage (Cumberland, Maine) and junior Mark McCauley (Cumberland, Maine) in the 800.
Hardison, the 10th seed in the event among 20 competitors going in, set personal bests in the final two events of the decathlon, the javelin throw and the 1,500 meters, a day after setting two other personal records. The New England Division III decathlon champion launched a personal-record javelin throw of 166 feet and 2 inches, or 50.66 meters, exceeding his previous best by 2.29 meters. Incredibly, it was his third personal record of the meet, following Thursday’s PR’s in the 100 meters (11.35) and the 400 meters (50.25).
The team captain wasn’t finished with his end-of-career heroics. Hardison finished his final race as a Bobcat, the 1,500, in 4:40.17, ninth-fastest in the field but 1.17 seconds faster than he had ever run the distance before. His PR entering the race was 4:41.34, established in 2012.
Hardison started the day with the fourth-fastest time in the field in the 110-meter high hurdles, at 15.27 seconds.
Hardison became Bates’ second-ever All-America decathlete, following Joe Northrup ’05, who placed eighth in 2003 and seventh in 2004. He also becomes Bates’ 32nd All-American male athlete in outdoor track and field.
In the preliminary heats of the 800 meters, LePage, the third seed in the event, finished third in the first of three heats, one place away from automatically making the final. The two-time All-American’s time of 1:52.87 trailed heat runner-up Sean Royer of Wisconsin-La Crosse by .34 seconds, and LePage settled for 12th place overall.
McCauley, the sixth seed, ran in what would be the fastest heat of the day, and was also the top finisher to miss the finals, taking fifth in the race at 1:51.98, good for 11th place overall.
Pless fouled on his first two attempts in the first round of the hammer throw, forcing him to make the third one count. His heave of 57.10 meters, or 187 feet and 4 inches, vaulted him to 13th place from last, but it was 4 feet and 11 inches short of the ninth and final qualifier into the second round. It is only the second time Pless has missed a final in an NCAA Championship event, in his 11th opportunity.
Enos uncorked a huge personal record on his final effort in the discus throw to vault past five athletes, including friend and teammate Pless, to claim fourth place and his first All-America honor on Thursday.
Pless also reached the finals and placed seventh for his ninth career All-America honor, two more than any other male athlete in Bates history. Pless made the finals on his third and final effort of the preliminary round, at 51.67 meters, then moved up to third place briefly on his first effort in the finals, 52.84 meters, or 173 feet and 4 inches.
Enos, whose previous career-best in the discus was 167-3 (50.97 meters), went 50.86 meters on his first attempt of the day, good enough for the ninth and final spot in the finals. Enos improved to a personal-record 51.36 on his penultimate attempt, after fouling twice in a row, but he remained in ninth going into his final attempt. Enos stepped up on his final try, going 174-9, or 53.27 meters, 2.30 meters beyond his PR when the day began. It is the first time he has ever defeated Pless, his close friend and training partner. (Video: Sean Enos 2013 NCAA Discus)
Enos became Bates’ third-ever All-American discus thrower, joining Pless and Peter Goodrich ’89, and the 31st All-American athlete in Bates’ outdoor track and field history. Pless became Bates’ first-ever two-time All-American in the event.
Barron provided another highlight for Bates in the trials of the 1,500 meters, running the seventh-fastest time in the field, at 3:52.66, to reach the finals, which are open to the top 12 times in prelims. Barron was the 18th seed among 20 athletes entering the race.
Hardison stood in 12th place among 20 competitors halfway through the two-day decathlon event, which concludes on Friday. He led off the day with a personal-record time of 11.35 seconds in the 100-meter dash, ninth-fastest in the field of 20 decathletes, for 784 points, and he finished strong, with the second-fastest time in the 400 meters, and another personal record, at 50.25 seconds, good for 803 points. Hardison has 3,400 points, just eight shy of 11th-lace Maxwell Dunne of St. Thomas (Minn.) and 22 shy of Tufts’ Michael Blair.
Martin made it a nearly perfect day for the Bobcats in the final individual event of the night, the trials of the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Running in the second of two heats, Martin finished in 9:11.82, the 13th-fastest time among 20 competitors overall.