Simon Fraser Distance Relays Shine On Day 1 Of Nationals
Simon Fraser's men's DMR placed second in 9:36.05. The women placed fourth in a time of 11:26.80. Photos by Loren Orr.
Simon Fraser's men's DMR placed second in 9:36.05. The women placed fourth in a time of 11:26.80. Photos by Loren Orr.

Friday, March 11, 2022

PITTSBURG, Kan. – Simon Fraser was 200 meters away from bringing home its first men’s indoor national championship Friday night as a second-place finish for the men’s distance medley relay led GNAC performances on day one of the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Plaster Center.

Simon Fraser placed second, earning All-American honors with a time of 9:36.05 that cut two seconds off their own GNAC record. The team was one of five teams in the race to go under the previous meet record of 9:40.15 set by Western Oregon in 2017.

One of three teams in the field to have run under 9:40 entering nationals, Simon Fraser nearly led the event from wire to wire. Sophomores Charlie Dannatt and Callum Robinson led from wire to wire in their legs and sophomore Paul Buckingham held off a challenge from Adams State’s Andrew O’Keefe at the end of the 800-meter leg.

Senior Aaron Ahl anchored with the mile and held strong until the final 200 meters when Lee’s Christian Noble stunned field, charging past Ahl in the final straightaway to claim the title in a time of 9:34.51.

The women’s DMR will also bring an All-American trophy. The quarter of sophomore Megan Roxby, sophomore Emily Lindsay, junior Emily Chilton and senior Alison Andrews-Paul kept in contention the entire race and placed fourth in a time of 11:26.80. The performance is the third-fastest in the event in GNAC history.

Seattle Pacific sophomore Annika Esvelt was the conference’s third All-American of the day, placing eighth in the women’s 5,000 meters in a time of 16:31.12. Esvelt never lost contact with the chase pack the entire race as she took 62-hundredths of a second off her No. 7 time on the GNAC all-time list.

The shock of the day came in the men’s mile, where the conference’s top runners failed to advance to Saturday’s final. In a strategically run first heat, Western Washington junior Mac Franks and Ahl found themselves boxed in for much of the race and unable to make the moves they wanted over the final 400 meters. Franks was fourth in the heat in 4:08.61 and Ahl fifth in 4:08.62 to find themselves waiting to see what times came out of the second heat.

That heat proved faster with the top six runners all finishing under Franks’ time. Dannatt, however, benefitted from being in that fast heat. He placed second in a time of 4:04.73, just one second off of his lifetime best, and earned a spot in the final.

Franks rebounded well, coming back less than an hour later to earn a spot in the finals of the men’s 800 meters. Franks pushed through to earn an automatic qualifying spot, taking second in the third preliminary heat. His time of 1:51.41 was the fifth-fastest in the opening rounds.

Andrews-Paul advanced to the finals of the 800 meters, but not without a little bit of drama at the end. Entering the final lap in second, Embry-Riddle’s Ukeyvia Beckwith surged to the front and threatened to take an automatic qualifying spot away from Andrews-Paul. In the final straightaway, Andrews-Paul surged in lane three to win the heat in 2:08.65, the third-fastest time on the day.

In the men’s 400 meters, Robinson ran the second-fastest time in GNAC history but it was not enough to move on to the finals. Callum was second in his heat and 10th overall with a time of 47.65 seconds. That was just short of the conference record of 47.61 seconds set by SFU’s Vladislav Tsygankov in 2017.

The NCAA Championships wrap up on Saturday. Dannatt will compete in the men’s mile final at 3:40 p.m. (Pacific). Franks will compete in the men’s 800 final at 4:25 p.m. and Andrews-Paul will race in the women’s 800 final at 4:35 p.m. The conference’s only field-event qualifier, Western Washington senior Beau Sheeran, will compete in the men’s high jump at 1:30 p.m.