HPU Men’s Track Posts Program-Best Big South finish

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The High Point University men’s track & field team finished a program-best second at the Big South Indoor Championship at the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, N.C. Head coach Mike Esposito was named Men’s Indoor Coach of the Year and four Panthers earned runner-up honors.

“We had a great day, this really showed how we’re getting better as a program,” said HPU head coach Mike Esposito. “Our guys came through, whether it was Benji and Patrick in the distance events, Tristan Faure getting us started in the heptathlon or Evan coming off an injury to get second in the dash.

“I can’t say enough about our freshman jumpers. Adam DeVito came through with a 23-foot long jump, Jordan Carr took fourth in the high jump and Austin Miller got third in the pole vault and set a school record. That group has the tools to be really good.”

The highest HPU had ever finished at a Big South Championship was third, twice indoors and three times outdoors. It was the first Coach of the Year award for Esposito in track & field.

The Panthers scored 98.5 points to place second behind Liberty, which won its 16th indoor title in a row with 163.5 points. Charleston Southern finished third with 82 points and Gardner-Webb came in fourth with 81 points. VMI placed fifth (69) followed by Radford (64), Campbell (63), UNC Asheville (24) and Winthrop (13).

Faure’s heptathlon was the first event to begin on Thursday and, when it concluded Friday afternoon he had wrapped up second place for the second year in a row. He scored 5,000 points, besting his previous HPU record of 4,956 from last year’s championship. Some of his highlights included wins in the 1,000-meter (2:42.71) and 60-meter hurdles (8.59) and runner-up finishes in the 60-meter dash (7.32) and high jump (1.91 meters/6-3.25).

The Panthers wrapped up their runner-up finish with 16 points in the 5,000-meter. Junior Patrick Crawford led the way with a second-place finish in 14:37.38. Sophomore Jeff LaCoste had a strong finish to place fourth in 14:50.75 and freshman Paddy Grandinali took sixth to pick up three points. Grandinali edged out Campbell’s Chris Schulist for sixth with a time of 14:54.27.

Crawford also placed third in the mile and LaCoste took fifth in the mile and sixth in the 3,000-meter. Freshman Benji Szalai was runner-up in the 3,000-meter in a time of 8:23.91 on Thursday and came back to place sixth in the mile on Friday.

Junior Evan Emery earned All-Big South honors in the 60-meter dash with a second-place finish. He clocked in at 6.88 seconds to earn eight points coming off an injury.

Four freshman jumpers scored for High Point. On Thursday, Austin Miller cleared 4.70 meters (15-5) to place third in the pole vault and Adam DeVito took third in the long jump with a leap of 7.01 meters (23-0). On Friday, Jordan Carr took fourth in the high jump (1.99 meters/6-6.25) and DeVito cleared the same height, placing sixth. Will Narramore placed eighth in the triple jump.

Freshman Dennis Crawford and junior Ryan Venable combined to earn seven points in the 60-meter hurdles, finishing in fifth and sixth place, respectively. They both posted career-best times: Crawford ran 8.31 and Venable ran 8.32. Crawford also took seventh in the 400-meter.

Freshman Paul O’Donoghue placed fifth in the 800-meter in 1:58.97. He maintained his position in the middle of the pack throughout the race. High Point placed fifth in the distance medley relay and sixth in the 4×400 relay.

The meet concluded the indoor season for High Point. The Panthers begin the outdoor track & field season with the Wake Forest Open March 15-16 in Winston-Salem, N.C.