Terra Haute, Indiana (3/14/09) – It was the finest hour for the Montclair State Track and Field team in the last 17 years – literally. In a span of just about 63 minutes, the Red Hawks added two more names to its list of national champions as sophomore William Brown (Palmyra, NJ / Gloucester) and Monique Riddick (Edison, NJ / Bishop Ahr) captured the 55 hurdles and shot put, respectively at the NCAA Division III Indoor Championships at Rose-Hulman Institute on Saturday.
Not since 1992 had Montclair State produced multiple national champions in the same NCAA meet when Sharon Lindo and Dewayne Stevens swept the 400 meters at Wisconsin-Stevens Point. This time it was the super sophomores, who became MSU’s seventh and eighth indoor national champions since the Division III meet began in 1976.
Riddick also earned a rare distinction in MSU history as she joined Lindo in winning back-to-back national championships. She is the fifth athlete in meet history to win multiple times and the fourth to go back-to-back in the event.
For Riddick, it was nearly a case of déjà vu. Last year, she squeaked her way into the final as she put up a qualifying mark on her final first-round throw and then posted her best throw on her final attempt to capture the national title. This year it was same story. After fouling on her first two attempts, Riddick needed a solid mark on her final throw just to make it into the finals. She then uncorked the throw of her MSU career sending the shot 47-feet, 2.5-inches (14.39 meters), the best throw by any competitor at that point.
In her final three throws, Riddick would not match that distance however it wouldn’t matter as none of the other seven competitors in the finals could match it either as Riddick claimed her second national championship.
"It was a repeat of last year,” said Riddick. “Coach (Aubrey Lewis) said that I can do this, so I just relaxed and thought 'I got this'."
The victory capped another outstanding year for Riddick, who entered the NCAAs with the second-best throw in the nation. She was just one of two athletes to eclipse the automatic qualifying mark of 14.00 meters, a feat she achieved four times, including the New Jersey Athletic Conference Championships where she was named the Most Outstanding Female Field Athlete as she set the meet record by throwing 14.29 meters. In seven meets Riddick took part in this indoor season, she finished first in five of them. In the two meets she did not win, she was second and fourth against field comprised of mostly Division I competitors.
Meanwhile Brown was looking for some redemption. He took part in the 2008 NCAA Championship in the same event but fell short of making the final. This time, not only would Brown make the final, he made the most of it.
Running in Lane 2, Brown actually clipped the first hurdle, knocking it to the ground. But the NJAC Most Outstanding Male Athlete, kept going and was in a battle with Buena Vista’s Shawn Olorundami and Dorran Coley of Thiel College as the trio cleared the final hurdle. But Brown managed to lean across the line just a split-second (.03 to be exact) ahead of the other two to become the first MSU male since 2002 to win an individual indoor title and the third overall. The last Montclair men’s athlete to take home gold at the NCAA Championships was Enrique Llanos, who ironically, won the 55 hurdles.
Brown’s time was 7.39, breaking his own school record set at the NJAC Championships last month when he ran 7.45, a figure that stood as the top time in Division III entering the national meet. In the NJAC meet, Brown clipped the last hurdle, but still managed to set a conference championship mark.
"It feels really good. I had some extra motivation this year,” said Brown. “My uncle recently passed away and he always attended my events, so I was thinking about him while I ran."
Brown, who was the runner-up in the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 110 hurdles, won the indoor 55 hurdles four times during the indoor season and placed fourth and fifth in largely comprised Division I fields in two other events.
Brown advanced to the NCAA finals as he ran a time of 7.54 during the preliminaries. That was the fourth-fastest during qualifying, but was even more impressive as Brown had to avoid a falling competitor in the adjacent lane as the two cleared the final hurdle.