Pat Longobardi, Sports Writer:
Southern Connecticut State University men’s indoor track and field team continued to thrive during their indoor season campaign.
Southern won the Metropolitan Championships for the first time in school history, the Northeast-10 Conference Championship for the 17th consecutive time, and placed third in the New England Championships.
Southern ended their season by sending eight student athletes to the NCAA Division II Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico from Mar. 11-12. Adams State College was the host school.
“These guys worked hard for two years and it is exciting to see them compete at the National Championships,” said Southern head coach John Wallin.
In his second season as Southern’s head coach, Wallin, former track and field head coach at Dartmouth and Adams State, said the lack of experience is the biggest factor for Southern at the NCAA Championships.
“We have guys who have been their before,” said Wallin. “I expect those guys at their highest level.”
Senior Selasi Lumax held the top seed in the nation for the 800 meter run with a time of 1:49.47.
Juniors Josh Perry and Corey DeLaCruz joined Lumax.
The 4×400 meter relay team of sophomore Logan Sharpe, junior Stenson Jean-Baptiste, senior Nana Ocran, and Lumax was selected for the fifth seed with a time of 3:13.62.
The distance medley relay team of DeLaCruz, Lumax, and Perry qualified as the third seed with a time of 9:51.51.
Senior Patrick Waszczak was in the pole vault with a height cleared of 4.95, achieved at the 2011 Yale Collegiate Invitational on Jan. 15.
Senior Ryan Whitehead was added to the championships, participating in the pole vault and the heptathlon.
Southern indoor track sent 15 members of their indoor squads, including nine members of the women’s indoor track and field team.
“We need to keep building confidence for the younger guys that don’t know or are nervous,” said Sharpe.
“I feel this year we had to step up because the Northeast-10 is getting tougher and we had a lot of guys injured, ineligible or red-shirting.”
Said Ocran about winning the conference championship: “We value our conference, since it is the biggest conference in Division II sports. It is one of those titles that we want to win as a team to help show how strong we are as a team.”
Sharpe said he remembered being in the leadoff leg in the 4X400 at last year’s NCAA Championships.
“I won my leg in the fast heat, and it was one of the most nervous moments of my life,” said Sharpe.
Southern was as high as number eight in the USTFCCCA national indoor rankings following a Northeast-10 Conference Championship and a third place finish at the New England Championship.
“I’m proud of my teammates, both male and female, sprinters, throwers and distance runners,” said Ocran.
“I believe that we have great coaches and athletes. The best is yet to come.”
This was the first time this season Southern had entered the top 10 in the national rankings. Southern was also number one in the East Region.
Wallin said Southern’s strength has been the ability to perform late in the season.
“We train to perform well late,” said Wallin. “That is when to perform best.”
“We need to learn to take advantage of the early season to qualify, so that we can relax later on,” said Sharpe.
According to Wallin, with this indoor season being another historical one, confidence is a factor going forward.
Wallin said: “With the New England Championships at Southern (outdoor), we are to perform well, and hopefully beat Connecticut, the flagship of our state.”