(Geneva, Ohio) The race walk is usually not the most exciting event at NAIA Indoor Track & Field National Championships. This year the 3,000 meter event rivaled the relays for drama. From the gun three men sent an aggressive pace. Cornerstone's Cody Risch along with Nick Christie and Alejandro Chavez of Missouri Baptist flew through the first half of the race in just over six minutes, well under meet record pace. The lead changed every few laps as each man tried repeatedly to break the other two. On the penultimate lap, Christie moved past Risch again and pried open a five meter gap. At the bell lap Chavez shot past Risch putting the senior and 2012 national runner up in third. With 200 meters remaining, Cody launched into a determined kick. Coming off the last turn, all three converged onto the final straightaway. Risch using momentum and incredible desire retook the lead. Christie and Chavez didn't relent. Risch reached the finish line in an incredible 11:57.54. Christie was second in 11:59.73 and Chavez third in 12:00.57. As the trio sprawled on the track, reaping the results of their efforts, the announcer noted that all three were under the championship meet record.
Behind them, CU's Nathan Vanderwall worked his way to an apparent fourth place finish in 13:16.87 and teammate Isaac Withrow's late charge put him unofficially ninth. As is the nature of the event, the competitors endured several tense minutes as the judges tallied the violations to see if there would be any disqualifications. Cornerstone's celebration ended abruptly when it was revealed that Risch received his third mark in the homestretch and was disqualified. "It's a tough way to lose," said CU walks coach Nate Van Holten. "Cody has been second in this race and he came here to win it. Unfortunately, as fast as he was going at the end drew a lot of attention from the judges." Risch's DQ moved Vanderwall into third and Withrow into eighth, the final All-American spot. Last year Withrow finished eighth in his first NAIA Nationals appearance, but was disqualified. "If I didn't get that DQ, I would not have had the motivation to come back this year and work harder," Withrow said. "I would have rather been ninth, though, with Cody getting the win."
As disappointing as the disqualification was, Risch received consolation from unexpected sources. Two-time Olympian and America Record holder, Tim Seaman and former NAIA National Champion and Olympic Trials qualifier Patrick Stroupe contacted Cody offering support and encouragement. "They told me not to get down about it," Risch said. "The both said they have had DQ's in big races and I should keep training because I have a lot more to accomplish in the walk."
Ryan Versen continued his quest to run the 400 meters six times in three days. After helping the 4 x 400 and distance medley relays advance from Thursday evening's semi-finals, Versen took on the open 400 prelims. Running in the first heat, the junior worked his way through the traffic jam that developed off the cut in on the backstretch. Coming into the final turn he moved just wide enough to avoid the jostling along the rail then he pinned Andre Washington of Concordia, OR to the inside up the homestretch as both of the caught up to the leader, Robert Rose of Indiana Tech. Versen drew even at the line and matched Rose's time of 48.73. The camera broke the tie giving Rose the win by 1/1000 of a second. Both men advance to Saturday's final. Incredibly six of eight finalists are from Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference teams.
Louis Falland had the least dramatic race of the day for a Golden Eagle. After running patiently in the pack until the last 400, Falland took control of the race and cruised to an easy win in 4:13.67 qualifying for Saturday's final.
In the 3,000 meters, Jared Courtright took seventh in his heat and 16th overall. Thomas Bambach suffered a deep spike wound one step into the race and pulled out after seven laps. Three stitches were required to close the gash.
Bryant Langdon finish second in his flight of the 35 pound weight throw with a season best 54' 9.5" on his second attempt. Seeded 22nd, Langdon finished 11th, improving eight places from the 2012 NAIA Championships.