• Junior Benji Szalai ran the 13th fastest time in the NCAA East Region to win the 3000m steeplechase (9:01.51)
• Sophomore Vinny Todaro crushed his previous 1500m personal best while capturing the event title in 3:50.98
• Junior Paddy Grandinali captured the 3000m title with a mark of 3:51.78
GREENVILLE, N.C. – The High Point University men’s track & field distance squad took eight of a possible nine top-3 finishes and captured all three individual event titles to dominate the field Saturday on the final day of competition at the Bill Carson Invitational.
HPU earned victories in the 1500m run, 3000m run and 3000m steeplechase and notched an outstanding 74 total points in the three events. The impressive showing propelled HPU into a third-place finish amongst a strong field. No. 16 South Carolina won the event with 199 points, while AAC opponent and host East Carolina was second with 148 points. HPU posted 140 points and finished in front of Big South foe Coastal Carolina (124 points), UNC Wilmington (71) and Charlotte (41).
“I’m very pleased all the way around with our effort,” head coach Mike Esposito said. “Our throwers set the stage on Friday and we carried that momentum into a great overall performance today. This is what track & field is all about – a scored meet against national competition in which we truly performed at a high level.”
Leading the way for HPU, junior Benji Szalai posted a season-best time of 9:01.51. The time is the 13th fastest in the NCAA East Region this season and the top mark in the Big South. The top-48 steeple runners will qualify for NCAA East Regional competition in May. Senior Chris Colo finished third in the steeple in a time of 9:16.20.
Sophomore Vinny Todaro won the 1500m run in a time of 3:50.98. The time was more than three seconds faster than his previous collegiate PR. Freshman Ryan Udvadia finished second in a PR of 3:51.57 and junior Paddy Grandinali placed third in a PR of 3:51.78. Freshman James Quattlebaum placed sixth in 3:57.67.
In the other distance event of the day, Grandinali won the 3000m run title with a time of 8:28.34. He was joined in the top-3 by Udvadia (2nd, 8:31.75) and Szalai (8:32.49). Colo was fifth in 8:41.70 while sophomore Chernet Sisay earned three points with a sixth-place finish (8:42.60). Sisay’s time was more than 15 seconds better than his previous 3000m PR.
“We have an excellent distance group that’s really getting its swagger back from cross country season,” Esposito said. “I’m really excited about what they’re going to do in the next few weeks. Benji’s on his way back to top form and Vinny’s win is a real testament to his resilience. He’s been nicked up over the past year but he’s on fire right now and it couldn’t happen to a better kid.”
The Panthers picked up 14 points in the pole vault behind top-3 finishes from freshman Todd Uckermark and junior Austin Miller. Uckermark notched a collegiate PR of 4.93m (16-2) to finish second and Miller placed third with a mark of 4.63m (15-2.25).
“It was good to see Todd perform well in the vault,” Esposito added. “He’s had some struggles recently but he really showed a lot of character today and had an excellent attempt at the 16-8 bar at the end.”
Junior Paul O’Donoghue tallied a solid second-place finish in the 800m run (1:53.96) to pick up eight points for HPU, while Todaro earned another five points with a fourth-place showing (1:55.15). Todaro won the second heat of the event. Sophomore Luke Goodrich was ninth in 1:59.78.
On the jumps circuit, junior Will Narramore earned 10 points for the Panthers with a pair of fourth-place finishes in the long jump and triple jump. Narramore posted a season-best mark of 14.29m (46-10.75) in the triple jump and notched a jump of 6.76m (22-2.25) in the long jump. Also scoring in the long jump, sophomore Eric Purnell finished fifth with a PR of 6.58m (21-7.25) and junior Adam DeVito was sixth (6.35m, 20-10).
In sprints action, freshman James House finished sixth in the 100m dash (10.83) while junior Andrew Kuras finished eighth in a PR of 10.89. House placed ninth in the 200m dash with a PR of 21.71 while Kuras was 15th in 22.66. In the 4x100m relay, House, Kuras, junior Nick Hula and Purnell placed fifth in 41.82. Hula was 13th in the 400m dash with a season-best showing of 50.49.
“Our men’s 4×100 is really starting to put things together,” Esposito said. “And Will Narramore’s been extremely consistent this season and he’s ready for a big jump in the weeks to come.”
Wrapping up HPU’s day, junior Jim Wilson finished seventh in the shot put with a season-best throw of 13.91m (45-7.75).
HPU returns to action on Saturday (April 18) at the Big South 4-Way in Buies Creek, N.C.