TERRE HAUTE — Half of the Wabash College All-American 4x400-meter relay team hails from the Wabash Valley.
Terre Haute South senior John Haley and Northview sophomore Joel Whittington helped the Little Giants to earn fifth-place honors at the 2013 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships in a time of 3:10.58 and earn All-American honors for the first time.
The foursome broke its own school record of 3:12.08 set two days earlier in the championship meet prelims.
The Little Giants earned a berth in the national field after cranking out two quick times at last-chance meets at North Central College.
Coach Clyde Morgan was impressed with the team’s accomplishments, in spite of making a lineup change a week before the national meet.
“Thursday night I said I thought this group could run a 3:13 in the finals. To go from 3:14 to 3:12 then to 3:10 is something you can’t script as a coach,” Morgan said. “I think about these four young men and their stories and what they’ve gone through. This is a perfect example of NBU [Nothing Breaks Us] and ‘Wabash Always Fights.’”
Morgan pointed out Haley and Whittington as special members of the team.
“All of these guys have been through a lot trying to make this relay work,” he said. “John Haley’s ankle and hamstrings have kept him from being at his best the past two seasons, but he has battled through those injuries to get to this point.
“Joel kept a picture on the screensaver of his phone of the scoreboard from last year’s ninth-place finish at outdoor nationals when the group fell one place short of being All-Americans,” he added.
Haley competed 24 hours after running in the 400-meter dash. The effort had little effect as he led off the relay for the Little Giants at the national meet, concluding an outstanding Wabash career.
“This whole experience has been four years in the making,” Haley said. “We finally got it. This is probably the biggest accomplishment I’ve achieved in my Wabash career. Knowing that we also set the school record makes it even better. This is really a testament to Coach Morgan’s training.
“He’s been telling us all year preparing for nationals is all about peaking at the right time. He rested us when he needed to. He trained us hard when he needed to. All of that allowed us to turn these top times the past few weeks.”
Whittington is in his second season as a member of the Wabash team, and will be counted on for his leadership over the next two seasons.
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In other track and field news:
* Cooksey honored again – Navy head men’s track and field coach Stephen Cooksey, a Terre Haute native, has been named to the Team USA coaching staff for the 14th IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Moscow, Russia, USA Track & Field announced earlier this year.
Cooksey will serve as an assistant coach in charge of jumps and the combined events. This will be the fifth time he has served on a national team coaching staff.
“It’s an absolute honor to be selected,” Cooksey said. “It’s great to be around athletes of that caliber and I still get amazed by what they can do.”
The World Outdoor Championships will be contested from Aug. 10-18 in Moscow, and Cooksey will also be with the team for a training camp prior to the world meet.
He will be overseeing the decathlon, high jump, pole vault and the long and triple jumps.
Cooksey recently led Navy to its fifth Patriot League Indoor Championship in the last 10 years this winter and was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year for the sixth time.
He graduated from Gerstmeyer High School in 1968 after competing in basketball and track and field for the Black Cats and was a track and field standout at Indiana State, where he became one of the few Vigo County high jumpers to ever crack the 7-foot barrier.
* Spesard concludes career – Millikin senior LeAnn Spesard ended her outstanding Big Blue career on a disappointing note at the NCAA DIII Outdoor Track and Field Championships on May 24 at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Spesard finished in 17th place in the shot put with a throw of 13.02 meters. Spesard entered the competition with the second-best throw in Division III in the 2013 Outdoor season at 14.83 meters.
* Bridwell wins GLVC title – The University of Indianapolis won its fourth straight Great Lakes Valley Conference track and field title, assisted by a strong performance from Terre Haute South grad Josh Bridwell.
The Greyhounds went 1-2-3 in the shot put, led by Bridwell’s winning heave of 15.68 meters.
* Goodman takes 17th – White River Valley grad Samantha Goodman placed 17th in the hammer throw at the 2013 NAIA Outdoor Track and Field National Championship.
Goodman opened the competition with a throw of 44.08 meters before a second toss of 42.51 meters. She closed out the competition with a toss of 45.63 meters to earn the 17th-place finish.
Joey Bennett is a former Tribune-Star sports reporter and copy editor who now teaches at Northview High School in Brazil. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org