ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Purdue Sports) – The Boilermakers raked in a pair of third place finishes at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on Friday. Dani Bunch and Chukwuebuka Enekwechi each finished third in the women’s and men’s weight throw, respectively, to take home First Team All-America honors.
“We had a good first day,” head coach Lonnie Greene said. “To get six points on both sides and be in the top 15 on both sides, you couldn’t ask for a better set up. It goes to show how valuable those six points are at this event. Now, the key is to finish strong with Dani and Chuk in the shot put and Cierra in the triple jump, but I was pleased with today.
“I need to tip my hat to Coach McBride in getting our throwers ready for this meet. The key is to be able to execute on this day and be able to make the finals, and he got them ready. Keith has done an awesome job with our throwers, and hopefully we can close out tomorrow with great performances again from Dani and Chuk, and then from Cierra.”
Enekwechi was the first Boilermaker to compete at the championships. He opened with a throw of 19.91m (65-4), which put him in 10th after the first round of tosses. The sophomore would get better on nearly every throw. On his second attempt, Enekwechi moved into fifth place after recording a mark of 20.93m (68-8). He moved up another spot after his third throw with by far his best throw of the trials, a mark of 21.91m (71-10.75), though he was nearly a foot out of the top three.
In the finals, Enekwechi started to battle. He momentarily moved into third with a throw of 22.29m (73-01.75), but Michigan State’s Antonio James responded on the next throw to regain third with a mark of 22.42m (73-06.75). After a throw over 22m on his fifth try, but no better than his fourth attempt, Enekwechi needed to find his best throw on his final attempt in order to finish in the top three. He did. The Laurelton, N.Y., native launched his sixth throw 22.49m (73-09.50) which moved him back into third place where he would finish. The third-place finish is the second in a row in the event for Enekwechi, who took bronze at last year’s national meet.
“Chuk just continues to amaze,” throws coach Keith McBride said. “The kid is a sophomore, and he is just bombing throws all the time. The older he gets, the more he learns to compete at these things, the better he is going to get. He’s got two more shots at a national title in the weight throw, and I believe he is going to get one.”
Michael Lihrman of Wisconsin, the Big Ten Champion and NCAA Division I record holder in the weight throw, won the championships with a throw of 23.25m (76-03.50). Nick Miller of Oklahoma State took second with a throw of 23.07m (75-08.25), which was his personal best.
Bunch was next to compete for Purdue. Her series was very similar to Enekwechi’s, as she got better on every throw, except for one. The senior opened with a mark of 20.43m (67-00.50) which put her in sixth place at the time. Bunch moved up by a little over a foot and a half with her second throw, as she recorded a distance of 20.91m (68-07.25) to move up to second. She stayed there heading into finals after improving her best mark to 21.33m (69-11.75) on her third throw.
After not improving on her fourth throw, Bunch turned it up and continued fighting. She launched a throw of 21.70m (71-02.50) on her fifth throw, which moved her within eight inches of the leader, Ida Storm of UCLA. Before Bunch’s final attempt though, there was a change. Brea Garrett of Texas A&M was informed before her final attempt that her first throw of the competition, which was originally called foul, though measured at 22.15m (72-8), was now considered a fair throw and she was now the leader, pushing Bunch to third. Bunch didn’t waiver, though, and she had her biggest mark of the day with a throw of 21.81m (71-06.75). It wasn’t quite good enough to move up a spot, but she battled and got better throughout the competition.
“Today was awesome, those kids competed exceptionally hard,” McBride said of his throwers. “Getting to the meet is very, very difficult, and placing as high as they did is even more difficult. They performed awesome today and we couldn’t be any more proud that we are of them.
“I wish Dani would have had one more throw because she just kept getting stronger and stronger. She battled through a lot of adversity through the competition, but she came through strong and was right there, right off her PR, and you can’t ask for any more than that.”
Garrett held on to win the competition, but it wasn’t without a bit of drama. Storm of UCLA launched the biggest throw of the competition on the final throw of the competition, well over 23m, but it was right near the right sector line. The judges convened for several minutes and, despite protests, deemed the throw foul, which gave Garrett the championship with her first throw, the one that had originally been called foul.
Raheem Mostert also competed on Friday and ran in the 60m and 200m dashes. The Big Ten champion in both events opened with the 60m dash and ran the second-best race of his career. The junior posted a time of 6.69 seconds, but finished sixth in his heat. His time wound up finished 13th in the nation, which was one spot better than his original seed. Mostert missed the finals by 0.05 of a second, while seven of the eight finalists ran times faster than Mostert’s Big Ten Championship winning pace of 6.63 seconds. Six sprinters had times of 6.60 seconds or better, with the top time of 6.54 seconds recorded by Alabama junior Diondre Batson.
Just 40 minutes later, Mostert ran in the 200m. It was his first race on a banked track since Jan. 25 at Indiana, and just the second time since his freshman year at the Big Ten Championships hosted by Nebraska. Mostert stumbled on one of the banked turns and finished with a time of 21.38 seconds to take 16th. It was his fastest time on a banked track. Mostert earned Second Team All-America honors in both events.
The men currently sit 12th in the country, while the women are 14th, each with six points.
“I want to see us replicate today’s performance tomorrow,” Greene added. “That’s the goal. If we can do that and score points in each event, it will be a great way to cap a very productive season.”