Today: May 29, 2024

Track and field star wins National Championship

Photo courtesy Southernctowls.com
Nick Lebron used a second-day comeback to take the championship.

PAT LONGOBARDI Sports Writer

It has been a difficult road for SCSU sophomore Nick Lebron in his college track career.

He was injured and missed some of last season for the Owls and had to battle back in some moments this season as well.

“I tried to just have a solid meet [at the championship meet],” Lebron said. “I have had mishaps all year. Nationals were not even a possibility. It was sub-par and I did not put it together. At nationals, I realized the year I had. I wanted to get some [personal records] together and put a good score together and finish it off. I wanted to leave it all out there and not hold back. Expectation-wise, I wanted to do the best that I could and score for the team.”

Lebron did battle again and went on to win the national championship in the heptathlon at the Division II NCAA Championships in Mankato, Minn.

The No. 4 nationally ranked SCSU men’s indoor track and field team also claimed a third-overall finish, the program’s best ever result at the indoor championships. Lebron was one of eight members from Southern at the championships.

Lebron finished the event with 5,225 total points, a new school record. He became the 19th NCAA Champion for the Owls’ indoor team and first since 1998. Lebron was the 73rd individual NCAA champion in school history.

SCSU men’s track and field head coach John Wallin, in his second season, said the title was well deserved.

“He spent a lot of time to learn the events,” Wallin said. “He learned how to pole vault and long jump and throw…All of the credit goes to him. He worked hard and learned to learn. Indoor track is an uphill battle and it was unfortunate that things happened.”

Lebron, from Newington, Conn., currently holds the Newington High School record in the high jump.

Lebron came into the meet ranked 11th on the national leaderboard for the heptathlon, which consists of seven different track and field events.

After day one, Lebron was in third place with 2,888 points through four events. He finished ninth in the 60-meter dash (7.39), eighth in the long jump (6.39 meters) and fourth in the shot put (12.08 meters). As day one came to a close, he finished  first in the high jump (2.06 meters) to boost his score by 859 points.

On day two, Lebron had a fourth place finish in the 60 hurdles (8.35) followed by eighth place in the pole vault (3.90 meters). In the final event, Lebron managed second place in the 1,000 meters (2:47.10) to clinch his first national championship.

“I let my mind understand my mishaps,” Lebron said. “Dating back to the beginning of the meet, I had to stay locked in to get the best place I could no matter what. I shook it off. It was a battle for first. You might have seen me off to the side talking to myself.”

“The most pressure I had was mostly before the hurdles. I did not do good. In the hurdles, a switch went off; I had to get after it. It was a pretty good start going into the second day. I was third going in and I could not finish second or worse to finish it off.”

“I realized that some on the vault were off and I kept that in the back of my brain. I then saw some more were out, and I still had the high jump for more points. I kept jumping. Then, I had to lock it up and bring it home.”

Lebron now quickly moves into the outdoor season with a head start.

“This should prove a point to the kids that hard work pays off,” Wallin said. “You have to be patient. He should be very confident going into outdoor with the monkey on your back. Some of the good kids who compete in outdoor do not compete in indoor. I am looking forward to the challenges and meeting those challenges.

“He needs to find those keys to success and that ‘need to do better,’ and how to learn to stay focused. The heptathlon is two days long and takes a lot mentally, physically and emotionally.”

Lebron said he will try to use this as a motivation to continue to strive for success going forward.

“I am going to soak in this for a little bit, but it stops already,” he said. “This is my freshman year in outdoor. I have an exciting four more years.”

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