EOU outperforms expectations at national meet
The Eastern Oregon men’s and women’s outdoor track and field teams both enjoyed what head coach Ben Welch called a very successful collective showing at the NAIA national championships in Gulf Shores, Ala., Thursda through Saturday.
The men’s team resoundingly exceeded expectations, finishing eighth overall after entering the meet 26th, while the women finished 26th as a team.
“All in all, we had a very good weekend,” Welch said. “The men did a remarkable job of outperforming their ranking, and I was very pleased with how well the girls performed.”
The biggest winner for the Mounties was Hans Roelle, as he won the national title in the 800 meters one year after finishing third.
Roelle, a junior, battled dizziness and cramps before and during the race to beat Indiana Tech’s John Hester by a mere three-tenths of a second with a time of 1 minute, 50.35 seconds.
“The race was a photo finish,” Welch said. “He was struggling early on, but made his move right at the end to win.”
Roelle finished third in the same race last year after nearly getting disqualified as he pushed and shoved his way out of getting boxed in.
“Being from Alaska, it was not easy for Hans to handle temperatures over 90 degrees today,” Welch said. “I’m extremely proud of him. It’s not easy to come in ranked No. 1 with a target on your back. Today he really proved that he is the best.”
In the men’s 3000-meter steeplechase, Lucas Updike started off in last place, but passed most of the competition one-by-one to finish fourth. Updike’s time of 9 minutes, 6.87 seconds was 11 seconds faster than his previous best, to earn his first all-American honors. second-place in EOU’s record books behind his brother, Isaac, who is redshirting this season.
“We hope to have both of the Updike’s at the top competing for a national title next season,” Welch said. “They will both be duking it out and constantly pushing each other to get better.”