NORTON, MA- Wheaton College's largest outdoor track & field contingent in seven years will travel to Marietta College in Ohio later this week for the NCAA Division III Championship, as eight women and a program-high seven men made the final qualifying lists for the three-day meet beginning on Thursday at Drumm Stadium.
Wheaton's combined 15 athletes mark the highest number of national participants since the Lyons sent 17 in 2002, when the women captured their second straight outdoor title and sixth national championship overall. The women look to improve upon last year's finish of being tied for 38th, while the men return to the competition for the first time since 2007.
The men, who are primed to compete in six events, are making program history by not only sending the largest collection of athletes to a national championship but also having two relay teams at the meet for the initial time. Senior quad-captain Michael Wright (Baldwin, NY/Uniondale) will also set a first by becoming the only male in school history to have competed in four events at the competition, as he is entered in the 100- and 200-meter dashes as well as the 4x100- and 4x400-meter relay events.
The school record holder in all four of those events, with each being broken this spring, Wright is seeking his first outdoor All-America accolade and second overall. Junior quad-captain Merzudin Ibric (Revere, MA/Phillips Academy) joins Wright in both relay races, as Ibric is also after his initial outdoor All-America honor and second overall, while junior Mark Cimino (Danbury, CT/Danbury) and freshman Cailean Robinson (Newton, MA/Phillips Exeter Academy) round out the 4x100M relay quartet, which automatically qualified for NCAAs with the nation's third-fastest time of 40.95.
Robinson joins Wright in the 100M dash competition, while Wheaton's 4x400M relay foursome consists of Ibric, Wright, sophomore Mark Williamson (Vienna, VA/James Madison) and freshman Kyle Ricci (Warwick, RI/Bishop Hendricken). Williamson will also run in the 400M, while junior quad-captain Howard Powell (Brooklyn, NY/Boys and Girls) rounds out the men's participants, as he ranks 10th in the country in the 110M hurdles in 14.56, which is the program standard. Powell earned All-America status during the indoor 55M hurdles as a sophomore. The aforementioned seven athletes are all vying for their initial outdoor All-America awards.
For the women, senior quad-captain Chizoba Ezeigwe (Brockton, MA/Thayer Academy) and junior Renee Thompson (Hartford, CT/Weaver) make up two legs of each the 4x100M and 4x400M relay teams. Both athletes are looking for their third straight All-America finish in the 4x400M relay. Ezeigwe boasts a combined seven indoor and outdoor All-America honors to date, while Thompson has four.
Ezeigwe and Thompson will side with sophomore Laurenmaria Smith (Providence, RI/Hope) and freshman Didine Jusme (Providence, RI/Classical) in the 4x100M race, an event which the Lyons enter ranked sixth in the country at 47.61. Jusme and Smith look to garner All-America laurels for the first time. Wheaton's 4x400M relay quartet is comprised of Ezeigwe, Thompson, senior quad-captain Natana Jules (Brooklyn, NY/Boys and Girls) and freshman Lauren Cardarelli (Cranston, RI/La Salle Academy). A three-time All-American, Jules joined Ezeigwe and Thompson on the last two outdoor 4x400M All-America squads.
Sophomore Erin Neville (North Providence, RI/La Salle Academy) seeks her initial outdoor All-America accolade in the high jump, as her height of 5' 5 3/4" ties for seventh best among competitors. She has already claimed two All-America awards during the high jump competition at indoor nationals. Fresh off an indoor All-America finish in the triple jump, freshman Mickey Jusme (Providence, RI/Classical) is among the field of outdoor competitors, as her leap of 39' 4" is fourth best.
Most of Wheaton's athletes will see action on Thursday, as all four relay teams are slated to compete in the trials of their events. Wright will also take part in the preliminaries of the 200M dash at 6:00 p.m.