Nebraska Wesleyan’s men stayed in the hunt for its first national championship in school history until late in the day on Saturday with several All-America performances.
The Prairie Wolves had a strong start Saturday, finishing runner-up in the first two events in which they competed. The 4x100 relay of Gordie Coffin, Matt Turman, Jeff Aldrich and Bret Blake broke the school record they set on Thursday during qualifying. Their time of 40.47 was good for second place, and junior Aaron Dye followed it with a runner-up finish of his own in the 1,500 (3:54.61).
“We had a great day,” Head Coach Ted Bulling said. “We’re very proud to have four guys from Nebraska high schools run that fast at the national meet, and Aaron ran a great race too. The guy from Willamette (University) who beat him is quite a runner, and Aaron really made him work for it.”
NWU moved up into second place in the team standings after Blake and Turman took fourth and sixth, respectively, to earn All-America honors in the 100-meter dash. Then, Blake Henning and Evan Knight finished 5-6 in the 800, to pull the Prairie Wolves within 4.5 points of the team lead.
“A month ago, we didn’t even know Matt Turman was a national level sprinter, so he really finished the season well,” Bulling said.
Blake, hoping to repeat as national champion in the 200, settled for fourth place, but kept Nebraska Wesleyan within striking range until competitors from Lincoln University (Pa.) finished first and fifth in the triple jump to overtake the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in the team standings for good.The 4x400 relay of Ben Thayer, Blake, Knight and Chris Wolf placed third in 3:12.24 behind UW-La Crosse and Lincoln to wrap up Nebraska Wesleyan’s seventh top-three outdoor team finish since 1990.
Lincoln won the meet with 69 points, followed by UW-La Crosse with 66.5, Nebraska Wesleyan with 54 and Willamette with 43
Counting the two relays and his All-America performances in the 100 and 200, Blake became just the third athlete in NWU men’s track history to earn four All-America awards at one NCAA Div. III meet, joining Scott Nelson, who accomplished the feat in the same events in 1996, and Brian Hauff, who was an All-American in the 110 and 400 hurdles in addition to the relays in 1998.
“Bret ran eight races in three days, so he was a little tired, but it was still a great finish to his career,” Bulling said.
Blake ended his college career as a 15-time All-American, passing Gary Wasserman for third all-time in Nebraska Wesleyan men’s track and field, behind only Steve Reynolds and Hauff, who both were 17-time All-Americans.