Nationals await Leopard track team

Freshman Ordell Williams and junior Eric Gleason are going to the Nationals in Chicago, Ill., competing with juniors Liron Wilson and Anthony Rice in the 4x400m. “I’m going there confident,” Wilson said. / photo by Starr Carroll
Freshman Ordell Williams and junior Eric Gleason are going to the Nationals in Chicago, Ill., competing with juniors Liron Wilson and Anthony Rice in the 4x400m. “I’m going there confident,” Wilson said. / photo by Starr Carroll

by Greg Maher
Staff Writer

The cheetah; it earned the title of the fastest animal on the planet. The University of La Verne’s 4x100m relay team; it earned the title of the fastest Division III 4x100m relay team in the nation. These guys are Leopards not cheetahs, but on the track, nobody does it faster.

In addition to the 4x100m team, the University of La Verne’s 4x400m team is also wearing down all weather tracks across the state of California. They are currently fifth in the nation.

Not only do La Verne Leopards run, they also jump. They jump high and they jump far. High enough and far enough to take them all the way to Chicago, Ill. for the NCAA Division III Nationals. Two women on the team qualified, one for the triple jump and one for the high jump.

The 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams will also be traveling to Chicago for Nationals.

Last week, at the Occidental Invitational, the 4x400m team earned its way to Nationals with a time of 3:15:56. This was significantly better than their previous best of 3:21. The 4x100m team ran a record breaking time of 40:92. This broke the old mark of 41:40 they set themselves just weeks ago.

“We were confident about breaking the record, as a matter of fact we were kind of cocky about that,” said junior Liron Wilson, of the 4x100m team.

“The Oxy Invitational was a huge meet. There were a lot of Olympic athletes in that meet. We won both races [4x100m and 4x400m] and beat schools with scholarships like Cal Baptist, Azusa Pacific University, Northridge, Cal State Los Angeles and University of California, Irvine. That’s quite an accomplishment to beat those schools,” said head coach Pat Widolff.

“When you run against big schools you usually run fast, but don’t win. It’s hard to win against big schools. We did win, and the 4×100 team is first in the nation out of 350 schools, and the 4×400 team is fifth. This is a big deal we’re talking about,” he said.

In the women’s triple jump, junior Jacqui Zwissler is currently eighth in the nation in Division III with a distance of 11.46m.

In the women’s high jump, senior Erika Spencer is tied for 12th in the nation, clearing a height of 1.65m.

The 4x400m team consists of juniors Eric Gleason, Anthony Rice, Liron Wilson and freshman Ordell Williams.

“I think we will do good at Nationals. We will do better because we’ve had bad handles and you have to slow down and get the batons and other people pass you by,” said Williams.

“We can be at least two seconds faster without messing up the handoffs,” said Wilson.

According to Wilson, the team has a good shot at the national title in the 4x400m relay. “First place is a long shot because Lincoln University has a 3:08, but we will give them a run for their money. But we can definitely take second,” he said.

Members of the 4x100m relay team are Rice, Wilson, Anthony Hayes, and Jason Neal, all juniors.

“I’m pretty proud of myself and the team. Nobody expected us to be this good and go this far. They thought we might break the school record but they never thought we would be number one in the nation,” said Wilson.

Juniors Wilson, Rice, Anthony Hayes and Jason Neal leave Tuesday morning to compete in the national championships in the men's 4x100m. Neal said he wants to do something “that no one else at this school has ever done.” / photo by Starr Carroll
Juniors Wilson, Rice, Anthony Hayes and Jason Neal leave Tuesday morning to compete in the national championships in the men’s 4x100m. Neal said he wants to do something “that no one else at this school has ever done.” / photo by Starr Carroll

“We had high expectations, we knew we would make it to Nationals. We are not going there to have fun, we are going to take care of business and bring back the National Track and Field title to La Verne. The only National title in track ever won by La Verne was by Owen’s [Wright] daughter and that was a long time ago,” said Rice.

In addition to Tricia Wright, Kirk Dean won the long jump title in 1985.

The whole team seems ready for the challenge.

“We are excited to go and proud to represent our school. We ran a 40.9 and that was the whole idea, get a 40-point before Nationals. We are not going to go there and be cocky thinking we will beat everybody, because they are as good as we are, but respect our 4×1 team,” said Rice.

According to Rice and Wilson, they can break the record again and it will be a good enough time to win the National title in the 4x100m relay.

“We are a lot faster than even we think. We’ll bring it out when we get to Nationals, there will be a lot of teams there to push us,” said Rice.

Wilson seems to be very confident. “On both teams [4x100m and 4x400m] we need to work on the baton handoffs. In the 4×1 it’s all handoffs, if we get that straight, it’s curtains.”

The NCAA Division III Track and Field Nationals will take place from May 22-25 in Chicago, Ill.

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