(Geneva, Ohio) Cornerstone senior, Louis Falland bettered his runner up finish in the mile at the 2013 NAIA Indoor Track & Field Championships getting the win with bold front running and a powerful finishing kick.
Starting with Thursday's semi-finals in the distance medley relay and Friday's mile semis, all indications pointed to a great showdown between Falland and Matthew Clowes of Concordia, Oregon. Clowes had run two seconds faster for the mile during the season and ran a quick but controlled 1600 meter anchor leg on the distance medley relay and breezed through his semi-final heat in the mile. In those same events, Falland ran in the opposite heat blasting a 4:03 1600 meter anchor leg to put his team in the finals. Like Clowes, his mile semi-final race showed he was in complete control of the field.
The night before the mile final, Falland and CU men's distance coach, Nate Van Holten decided on an aggressive strategy. Typically championship finals in the mile are slow and tactical as no one wants to do the work of leading the field to set up a fast finish for the others. "We wanted to get out and shrink the field right away," said Falland, "ideally that would leave just one man to beat."
A 61 second first 400 meters accomplished the first part of the strategy as the field strung out with Clowes shadowing Falland. Nothing changed for the next 800 meters, then the junior from Concordia moved to the front with 400 meters to go. "I was definitely surprised that everything went so smoothly," Falland said. "When Matthew went to the lead that was exactly what I wanted. I knew at that point I would win unless he had something up his sleeve."
The pace intensified as the Clowes tried to pull away and Falland went right with him. With 100 meters to go Louis drew even and each man moved into top gear on the homestretch. Fifty meters from the line Louis inched slightly ahead, then half a step in front. Clowes kept pressing then suddenly stumbled, his legs failing to respond properly. Falland charged ahead capping a 59 second last 400 meters. As he crossed the finish line in 4:06.45, Clowes, arms pinwheeling, lost what was left of his balance and tumbled to the track. His momentum carried him forward, but four more competitors slipped past. He rolled across the line in sixth.
A walk-on from Nuriootpa, Australia, Falland had little to offer by way of talent or experience when he joined the CU Track & Field team. "I'd done several team sports and I thought I could be good at it," he said, "Then I got here and found out I wasn't as good as the worst guy on the team." In spite of his accomplishments, Falland deflects much of the credit. "I've worked really hard, but more than that, Q [coach Van Holten] knows what he's doing and I've trusted his training. My dad's a runner and he inspires me. It's strange looking back 4 years ago and how bad I was. If I can do it, anyone with the right coach the right training and the right support can do it." Falland's family watched his race via the live streaming available for the meet. "My dad set it up through the TV at home and the whole family was there," Falland said. "It meant a lot to know they were cheering for me and got to see the race."