Grinnell College in Iowa played host for the 2012 NCAA Division III National Championships. The Captains were featured on both days of competition plus the pre-Championships banquet and were part of a complete re-writing of the facility records in the two-year-old fieldhouse.
The NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships festivities opened with the awards banquet on Thursday evening in Grinnell, Iowa. Richard Roethel (Farmingville, NY) was recognized as the South/Southeast Region's Field Athlete of the Year for his 34-point performance at the Mason-Dixon Conference Championships and for entering the National Championships as the #4 seed in the Heptathlon (5014 points) and #3 in the High Jump (2.09m/6-10.25). Roethel has two such Region awards from the outdoor seasons, but this was his first recognition for the indoor season.
Roethel wasted no time in validating the coaches' voting as he blazed a 7.09 PR in the first section of the Heptathlon 60m. The time was a quarter second faster than he had ever run and held up for the fastest time in the field by 0.12 seconds. In the second event of the day, he powered another big PR with a 6.97m/22-10.5 effort on his third attempt in the Long Jump - best in the field by nearly a foot. With just two events in the books, the junior had a 110 point lead and was 235 points ahead of the pace he set in qualifying for the Championships.
The closest thing to a falter Roethel had on the first day came in the Shot Put. A sub-par first attempt (11.71m/38-5) just did not look right, so Roethel spent the time between his first and second throws doing drill work on the side. His second attempt was a Combined Event PR 12.61m/41-4.5 and held up once again for an event win.
The final event of the day was his favorite - the High Jump. After waiting over an hour to take his first jump as the rest of the field got their clearances in at lower heights, Roethel came in at 1.96m/6-5. A miss on his first attempt caused a bit of concern, but he cleared on his second jump. After passing at the next height, he had more trouble at 2.02m/6-7.5. His approach rhythm was proving elusive, but the junior found his way over the bar on his final attempt and then simply powered his way over the next two heights on first attempts. With the bar at a PR 2.11m/6-11, he once again went to his third try. His successful clearance was the highest ever in an NCAA Heptathlon (all divisions). He had two very close attempts at 2.14m/7-0.25 before retiring for the day.
Roethel's first day total of 3207 led the field by 301 points.
With Roethel's work done for the day, senior Dira Hansen (Culpeper, VA) took the stage in the women's 800m preliminaries. Running in the first section, she bolted out with the leaders of the field and found herself splitting 15 seconds at the 100m and just over 30 for the first 200m. The field was every bit as aggressive as she was sitting 3rd through the second lap and registered a 400m split in the 62 second range. The pack only just started to string out heading in to the third lap and Hansen found herself back in 6th position. With the top two guaranteed a spot in finals and the next four fastest times from the two sections filling the rest of the 8-woman field, Hansen's chances looked dire. She hung on for a 2:15.14 finish - her second fastest time of the year and 6th in her heat. Hope returned during the second section as that field was much less aggressive. The top two separated from the pack and the clock ticked towards 2:15 as the third finisher charged to the line. When the official time appeared on the board, Hansen found herself 9th by just 0.12 seconds.
Day two of the Heptathlon started early (9am) and the previous day's patterns held. Roethel had a little bit of a challenge in the 60m Hurdles, but won his heat and the event in a PR 8.45 seconds. Now five-for-five in event wins and at least Combined Event bests, the junior's National Title seemed all but assured - his lead now extended to 373 points. The sixth event, the Pole Vault, meant another long wait for the junior as the field opened at 2.80m/9-2.25. With 10cm increments, it would be 13 more heights before Roethel entered the competition. His run-thrus prior to his first attempt were a little sluggish, so he dropped down a pole from a 15'6"/190lb to a 15'6"/185lb for the first height. Being a little too anxious about his run and getting through the jump, he pulled down hard on the pole after take-off and snapped it in two just below his bottom hand. Needless to say, his adrenaline (and all of the spectators') went way up as he picked up the pieces of the shattered pole and tended to a minor cut and sore wrist. Back on the 190lb pole, Roethel ended the scare of a no-height in the event on his next attempt - a cannon-ball clearance of 4.10m/13-5.25 - but that was all he would get. That ended his PR and event-win string, but it assured the junior of his first National Title and allowed him to start thinking about the open High Jump competition that was now 90 minutes away.
With the top two Heptathlon Pole Vaulters being qualifiers in the open event the day before, the competition carried on for another hour. That pushed the final event of the Heptathlon - the 1,000m - to a 1:50pm start time. The open High Jump started at 1:30pm, meaning Roethel would have to run his five laps in between heights.
While warming up for the High Jump, Roethel looked understandably fatigued - both from the six events he had already completed and from the knowledge that he had one more draining run to complete in the middle of his High Jump competition. In spite of the Pole Vault difficulties, however, Roethel was a 2:53 1k away from reaching 5450 points in the Heptathlon - a total that would meet the qualifying standard for the USA National Championships. That possibility revived the junior and that spark helped him clear his opening height 2.00m/6-6.75 before taking a great shot at the 1k. His 2:55.45 left him just short of the USA standard, but his 5434 points establishes a strong Championship Record in the inaugural year of the Heptathlon.
Back to the High Jump, Roethel had a close miss on his first attempt at 2.05m/6-8.75 before clearing on his second attempt and putting himself into 7th place. A big first jump clearance of 2.08m/6-9.75 and he was in third place. Clearing 2.11m/6-11 two days in a row was not in the cards for Roethel and his second All-America trophy of the Championships would be bronze. Roethel's 16 points held up for 13th in the team scoring.
The Captains now boast 65 National Event Titles by 34 different student-athletes - Roethel is just the 4th male National Champion for CNU - and 487 All-America honors.
Videos of Roethel's and Hansen's competitions are available on RunnerSpace.com.