The Nation’s Best

Erik Jepsen/Guardian

It may not have been the last of the day, but sophomore Nick Howe’s championship throw immediately looked like a winner. With the javelin stuck in the grass 225 feet from where he stood, Howe knew no competitor would come close to beating his mark. It was only a matter of time before he was named national champion.

At the 2010 Division-II track and field championships on May 30, Howe’s accomplishment led a formidable Triton showing over the next three days in Charlotte, N.C. With his victory in the javelin throw, Howe became the first male national champion in the history of UCSD track and field.

“He really performed like someone beyond his years,” head coach Tony Salerno said. “He had a rough first throw, came back, made adjustments and made the big throw he needed to win.”

Howe won the event by nearly six feet — a personal best and new school record.

But Howe wasn’t the only one to end the season with success. Six Tritons earned All-American honors at the meet, awarded to the top eight athletes in each event. Two were even named All-Americans in multiple events: Junior Kelly Fogarty and Senior Christine Merrill.

Fogarty placed in the top eight in three of her four events, becoming the first Triton sprinter to earn All-American honors in both the 100- and 200- meter races. Her time of 11.99 seconds in the 100 earned her sixth place, while 24.04 seconds in the 200 was good for seventh. Lincoln University’s Semoy Hackett, who represented Trinidad and Tobago at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, won both events.

“I’m still in awe, and it still hasn’t really hit me,” Fogarty said. “It’s really an honor. “[My coach] has really believed in me the whole time, so it’s nice to have the unwavering faith that I can do it.”

Head women’s coach Darcy Ahner said Fogarty impressed her all season.

“You think everyone has off-days, but this year, Kelly was just on all the time,” Ahner said.

Though Merrill set yet another school record in the 400-meter hurdles, she was unable to reclaim her title as national champion in the event, which she won in 2009. Her time of 58.03, however, is the fastest in UCSD history — nearly a half-second faster than her winning time at the 2009 national championships in San Angelo, Texas.

Sophomore Jacqueline Rose and junior Stephanie LeFever joined Merrill and Fogarty on the 1600-meter relay team, earning an eighth-place finish and garnerimg All-American honors. Their time of 3:44.39 is the second fastest school history.

“That was probably the most nerve-racking race I’ve ever been in,” Fogarty said. “It was a totally different field than what we’re used to, but we still got a [season best].”

Senior Donna LeFever cleared 12’2.75” in the pole vault, placing sixth in the event. The elder LeFever sister came into the meet ranked 10th, but cleared the mark on her first attempt to move up in the final standings.

Although she came into the championship meet ranked first in the high jump, senior Linda Rainwater’s fractured back impeded her from defending the national title. Rainwater was given medical clearance only days before the meet, but still found herself in pain during each attempt. Still, her resilience allowed her to finish with a jump of 5’5.75” — good for 11th place.

“She did what she could,” Ahner said. “It wasn’t where she was before the injury, but she did what she could and was just a few places off of All-American. She’s a gutsy, strong woman.”

Fellow senior high jumper Casey Ryan also battled a nagging injury to place ninth with a mark of 6’9.50”. Other top accomplishments included Senior Daniel Anderson’s 14th place 1:51.97 finish in the 800-meter race, and junior Theresa Richards’ ninth-place 140’4” mark in the javelin throw.

Salerno said he was happy with the team’s performance, especially given the caliber of competition at the meet.

“The level in Division-II has improved dramatically in the last five years,” Salerno said. “There’s going to be places it doesn’t go well, but the level is just so high. I don’t think we had any disappointments. We’re coming back with nine All-Americans, and that’s really impressive.”

Readers can contact Liam Rose at [email protected].

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