By ELLIOTT DENMAN
PRINCETON, N.J. – The year was 1876.
The National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs is formed at a meeting in Chicago. Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt” premieres in Oslo. Melvil Dewey publishes details of his Dewey Decimel System. Alexander Graham Bell is granted a patent for an invention he calls the telephone. The first Transcontinental Express railroad train reaches San Francisco,83 hours and 39 minutes after leaving New York. The Battle of the Little Big Horn is fought in South Dakota. Heinz introduces its tomato ketchup. Anheuser-Busch brings Budweiser to a thirsty American market. Rutherford B. Hayes is declared winner of a still-argued presidential election over Samuel J. Tilden.
And on July 20-21, the delegates of Eastern colleges gathered for the first meeting of the group that would soon be named the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America. The site was Saratoga, New York, and the event was an offshoot of the already-thriving regatta of collegiate oarsmen.
The rowers had staged their first track meets in 1873 and through 1874 and 1875 their events continued as an adjunct to to the regatta.
Harvard’s own archives remind us that “the feature of the 1875 meeting was the showing of W. R. Taylor, class of ’77, who had rowed number three in the regatta on the previous day; and in spite of this somewhat arduous preparation for the track meet, not only won the seven-mile walk in the morning but in the afternoon competed again – this time in the three-mile walk – and once more broke the tape a winner.”
By 1876, it was time for the track meet to get going on its own legs, and among the notable winners at that first official IC4A meet were H.W.Stevens of Williams (with performances of 11.0 in the 100 yards and 56 and 1/2 seconds in the 440; E.C. Stimson of Dartmouth in both the mile (4:58 1/2) and three-mile (16:21 1/2); and J.W. Mann of Princeton in the shot put (30-11 1/2) and baseball throw (368 feet, 6 inches.)
The first IC4A team title went to Princeton, on the basis of its four first places and four seconds. A large silver cup was presented to those winning Tigers.
We remind you of all these events for a very good reason – a whole lot of other happenings on the American sports scene have come, run their course, and then disappeared.
But the IC4A – like the Energizer Bunny – has never stopped running, and running, and running. (Except for the World War I year of 1917.)
So there they were again at a familiar site – the Princeton campus – for the 139th edition of the still running, and running, and running IC4A Championships, May 15-16-17, 2015.
Way-way-way back – until supplanted by the NCAA Championships – the IC4A was the biggest thing going in American college track.
And it’s still a most viable institution – laden with eager athletes determined to post national-level performances, while battling for the vital team points that determine the winners of the forever-coveted team trophies.
The IC4A meet these days is administered by the Eastern College Athletic Conference, which since 1984 has been running a companion and concurrent women’s championship meet. But for some unclear reason, the men’s meet is still titled IC4A while the women’s meet, now in its 32nd year, is named the ECAC Championships.
“We still have a great meet; it’s still important to a lot of people, sure it’s changed over the years, but it’s still here and still going strong,” said Steve Bartold, the former coach at St. John’s University and Yale who now serves as IC4A meet administrator.
And so, too, said Simon Hodnett and Andy Gerard.
Hodnett is head coach at Long Island University of Brooklyn and Gerard at Virginia’s George Mason University; both went home with busloads of happy athletes and some very handsome hardware.
Hodnett’s LIU team won its very first IC4A team crown by rolling up 60 points, easily outscoring Albany (41.5), Navy (40), George Mason (39), Hampton and Cornell (34 each), along with 40 other schools that broke into the IC4A scoring column.
Gerard’s George Mason squad ran off with the school’s 10th ECAC crown – no otherschool has won it that often – but its first since 1999. Mason’s women netted 53 points, leaving James Madison (40) in second, Hampton (37) third, Albany (36.75) fourth, Penn (33) fifth, with 48 other schools registering points.
“We made history, and this was a tremendous achievement for our school,” said Hodnett. “We just came hoping for some solid over-all performances, and that’s exactly what happened.
“This is always a great meet and we always want to be part of it.”
“After the 100 meters (which saw LIU’s Tyquan Dukes run second to Wagner’s surprising Saquan Mitchell, 10.56 to 10.57), that’s when we began thinking we can win this thing,” said LIU assistant coach Michael Robinson. “And that’s the way it played out.”
LIU also got key contributions from Brendon Rodney (400 champion in 46.43), Micah Jonathan Petit-Homme (400 hurdles winner in 50.69), the Dukes-anchored 39.60 winning 4×100 relay team; the second-place 4×400 team, nosed out by Morgan State in the final strides, 3:06.74 to 3:06.98; third-place long jumper Adam Walker-Khan, and seventh-place triple jumper Amir Armstrong.
Call all that a pretty strong statement for the Brooklyn team that doesn’t have a track of its own – outdoor workouts are at the Red Hook public park track, indoor training at Brooklyn downtown neighbor Pratt Institute.
“I want to let you know we didn’t have a single event winner out there,” said GMU’s Gerard. “We accumulated a lot of points from a lot of different places. We had some seconds, some thirds, some more, we did it with a total team effort.”
Special stalwarts for victorious Mason were Bethany Sachtleben, second in the 5000 meters; Nhautrey Brown, second in the triple jump; the Shavon Briscoe-anchored second place 4×100 relay team; Taylor Sharpe, third in the 400; Michelle Wallerstedt, third in the discus throw; a fourth-place 4×400 team; Chantel Richardson, fifth in the 100 hurdles, and Jasmine Robinson, fifth in the 200.
So by nibbling away here and nibbling some more there, the Mason team won it all.
Of course, there was glory in it for all
Among the other notable IC4A champions: Hampton’s Chidi Okezie (20.81 200) and Trey Holloway (13.79 110 hurdles), New Hampshire’s Drew Piazza (1:48.62 800), Princeton’s Adam Bragg (17-4 1/2 pole vault), Albany triple jumper Devon Willis (51-0), Cornell weight doubler Steve Mozia (59-9 shot put, 201-3 discus), Navy javelinist Jay Stall (231-3) and Manhattan hammer thrower Love Litzell (221-8.)
Other leading ECAC winners: Hampton’s Le’Quisha Parker (23.32 200) and Ce’Aira Brown (2:04.81 800), Harvard 400 hurdler Jade Miller (56.87), Binghamton long jumper Keishorea Armstrong (20-7 3/4), Monmouth javelinist Kelsey Reese (161-5), and Princeton’s Julia Ratcliffe, the reigning NCAA hammer champion, who whirled one out to 224-10.
Still, the meet was missing a corps of familiar faces.
Scheduling conflicts with assorted conference meets kept away such IC4A/ECAC regulars as Rutgers and Maryland (now of the Big 10), Pitt, Syracuse, Boston College and Duke (ACC), Connecticut (AAC) and Liberty (Big South.)
“But that’s the way it is, and we have to live with it,” said the IC4A’s Bartold.
Some others sat it out to focus on readying for the NCAA East Regionals (May 27-30.)
There were also such special cases as Manhattan College senior 800 runner Gregory Perrier, who reached a career goal by breaking 1:50 for the first time (with a 1:49.11 in the prelims), only to miss the final to attend his graduation ceremonies.
Still, any way you look at it, 139 years is a lot of history – and future IC4A and ECAC athletes know they’ll have the chance to write some interesting new chapters.
“Amen” to that say the athletes of 2015 team champions LIU and George Mason.
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