NAPERVILLE, Ill. -- Senior David Pless established himself as Bates College's first eight-time All-American male athlete, as well as one of the greats in Division III track and field history, in claiming his third consecutive NCAA indoor shot put title on Saturday.
Bates capped the 2013 NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships Saturday at North Central College with James LePage's (Cumberland, Maine) record-breaking fourth-place finish in the 800 meters.
Pless's performance, along with his second-place finish on Friday in the weight throw, fueled Bates to fifth place among the 63 teams that scored points at the meet, best in program history. Only the Wisconsin foursome of Wisconsin-La Crosse, -Oshkosh, -Whitewater and -Eau Claire outscored the Bobcats' 23 points. Tufts and Worcester State were the next-best teams from New England, both tying for 13th place with 10 points.
Pless (Atlanta, Ga.) joins a short list of 18 other athletes who have won three or more NCAA DIII indoor titles. Only two other men have claimed three shot put titles: Terry Strouf of Wisconsin-La Crosse (1986-88) and Bobby Riley of Wisconsin-La Crosse (2007-09) -- and among them, Pless is the record-holder.
"I went in wanting to win, and I don't know if that's the best way to go about things, because my approach has always been just focusing on doing my best," said Pless. "I really thought I did exceptionally well, considering that.
"It was different than years past, but it still was every bit as special."
Pless's top effort of 60 feet and 3 inches, or 18.36 meters, came on his first throw in the finals, 19 3/4 inches beyond runner-up Fred Fulton's best and final throw of the day. It was only nine centimeters short of the meet record Pless established a year ago, and he also broke a facility record for the second time in the meet. (Pless broke his own Bates record in the event at 61-0.25 in January.)
Pless's second effort of 18.24 meters in the preliminary round also would have been more than enough to win the title. "It's nice to take control nice early on, although I thought it was going to take more than that (to win)," said Pless.
Even so, pointed out head coach Al Fereshetian, "He had to go in with the mind-set that absolutely nothing is guaranteed. He's won the past two years, but he's still the second seed going in. But David has the heart of a champion."
The Bobcats finished an agonizing ninth place -- one spot away from scoring points and earning All-America status -- in three events, including junior Tully Hannan's (West Hartford, Conn.) showing in Saturday's final in the mile. The two-time cross country All-American beat his personal-best time, which was set on BU's banked track, crossing the finish line in 4:12.93, moving himself into sixth place on Bates' all-time performance list in the event. Hannan leaped four places above his 13th and final seeding in the event.
Sophomore Sean Enos (Lynnfield, Mass.) capped a very impressive NCAA Championship debut by joining his buddy Pless in the finals in the shot put and also placing ninth, at 55-1.5.
LePage set Bates' record in the 800 meters for the second time this season with his fourth-place time of 1:51.08. (Earlier in the season he ran 1:51.59 on BU's banked track, breaking Ossie Chapman's 83-year-old record in the event, based on a converted 880-yard time.) LePage led at the halfway mark before giving way to champion Jake Waterman of Wabash (1:50.30), and finished directly behind the the top three, .14 seconds behind third-place Sean Royer of La Crosse. LePage was the seventh seed in the event to start with; he and the other top five runners in the event broke the facility record. He becomes a two-time All-American, after helping Bates finish third in the distance medley relay a year ago.
In Friday's portion of the meet, Bates' team-record eight-athlete contingent at NCAAs produced a second-place finish for Pless in the weight throw, a ninth-place performance in the distance medley relay, and Enos's 11th-place showing in the weight.
Pless became the second seven-time All-American male athlete in Bates College's history, as he took second place in the weight throw at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships on Friday.
Bates' distance medley relay team placed ninth, one place shy of All-America status, and Enos placed 11th in the weight throw. The Bobcats also saw LePage and Hannan reach Saturday's finals in the 800 meters and the mile, respectively.
Pless tied seven-time All-American diver Andrew Hastings '02 for the most All-America awards ever given to a Bates male student-athlete. His top mark of 64-10.75, or 19.78 meters, came on his third attempt in the preliminary heats, traveling 11 inches farther than third-place Tom Postema's top distance of 63-11.75. Wisconsin-Oshkosh senior Pete Delzer dominated the proceedings, passing the 20-meter mark on his final five attempts of the day, topping out at 67-9.5 (20.66m). Pless and Delzer both surpassed the facility record at host North Central College. Enos, in his first career NCAA Championship competition, showed poise in finishing two places better than his No. 13 seeding, with a top throw of 56-6.75.
Hannan, the 13th seed entering Friday's prelims in the mile, went three places better on Friday with the 10th-best time (4:16.58) among 13 men, grabbing the final qualifying spot in tomorrow's final by a .19-second margin ahead of Amherst senior Patrick Grimes. Hannan was third in his heat, only .03 seconds behind Matt Scott of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
LePage ran third in the second and faster of two preliminary heats in the 800 with a time of 1:52.71, a personal flat-track record for the recently named New England Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. LePage's time was fifth fastest in the 13-man field, two places better than his seventh seeding in the event.
Bates' DMR team — comprising junior Noah Graboys (Glencoe, Ill.) in the leadoff 1,200-meter leg, followed by junior Ben Levy (Belmont, Mass.) in the 400, sophomore John Stansel (Newburyport, Mass.) in the 800 and senior Nick Barron (Kirkwood, Mo.) in the 1,600 — finished in 10:08.10, 2.02 seconds behind host North Central for the eighth and final All-America place. Graboys, Levy and Barron all helped Bates place third in the event a year ago.