The Ospreys brought home six individual, first-place medals at the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship meet at Hodges Stadium, but the team fell just short of gold with a second-place finish.
Junior Desmond Robb, who took first place in the 400m at the indoor championship in February, entered the meet Saturday looking to prove he was the best — both indoors and out. Robb ran a 47.99, nearly two seconds better than his indoor time and fast enough to earn him the top spot on the podium once again.
“Coming from indoor I felt the pressure to back it up again, and I just really wanted to win it to be honest,” said Robb. “It feels really good. You put in a lot of work and to see it payoff is really rewarding.”
2015 A-Sun Outstanding Freshman Male Performer Nick Morken shocked onlookers with a school record 3:42.56 1500m earlier this season and continued his success with gold medals in both the 1500m (3:50.76) and 5000m (15:09.77). Morken was redshirted for the 2016 indoor season after he tripped over a root on the UNF trail and broke his ankle in the second week of practice, and his victory Saturday proved he was still one of the best.
“Being out that long kind of brought the fire back,” said Morken. “I needed to prove myself again and winning these two [events] kind of capped it off.”
Despite never competing in the 10,000m before, junior Michael Damato grabbed a gold medal with a personal-record time of 31:36.79 and was one of four Ospreys to sneak into the top six in the event. Brad Hort, Justin Bryant and Travis Nichols finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, meeting the high expectations of Head Coach Jeff Pigg.
“Our philosophy and the profile of our school lends itself to distance and middle distance runners,” said Pigg. “We put a lot of our finances and resources towards longer distance events 1500 meters and up, so that’s what we expect to do.”
Similar to the 10,000m, the Ospreys filled the leaderboard in the 5000m with four runners once again finishing in the top six. Nick Morken sat atop the leaderboard, with Manny Velasquez trailing behind by less than one second as both men set personal-best times. Brad Hort grabbed fourth place and Michael Damato finished sixth with times of 15:21.32 and 15:26.46.
Bobby Harris continued his dominant year in the high jump by setting a conference championship meet record of 2.17m and taking first place.
In the men’s 800m the Ospreys secured nearly every position on the leaderboard except the top, with Rayford James (1:53.45), Taylor Sumapang (1:53.46) and Constantine Stathis (1:54.41) finishing second, third and fourth, respectively.
Freshman Fynn Timm took first place in the 3000m Steeplechase with a time of 9:13.16, immediately followed by fellow Osprey Manny Velasquez who clocked a time of 9:13.37. Sophomore Bradley Langenberg was also able to grab points for the team with a fifth place finish and time of 9:41.
“[Fynn] handles himself like a professional, he’s on a mission to be the best he can be,” said Pigg. “He does what it takes, he does it in the classroom, he does it in training and he follows it up by taking care of business in all facets.”
Two sophomores and one freshman make up a triad of runners who qualified for the NCAA Regional Preliminary. Timm (3000m Steeplechase), Harris (High Jump) and Morken (1500m) will be competing May 26-28 at Hodges Stadium against 2,000 other athletes from across the East coast for the chance to qualify for the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon June 8-11.
Last year the team sent a school record four athletes to the East preliminaries, but their seasons ended when nobody qualified for the championships.
This year Pigg expects different results.
“[Morken’s] 3:42 is equivalent to a sub 4-minute mile,” said Pigg. “It’s a tremendous mark, and we hope this coming weekend that he’ll qualify for the NCAA Championships.”
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