Lincoln's team heads to its last Division III meet

Posted: May 24, 2007

While the Lincoln University men's and women's track teams look to add to their sizable list of NCAA Division III national championships under longtime coach Cyrus Jones this weekend, it won't be without some sadness.

The national meet beginning today at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh will mark the final time the Lions compete as a Division III school in track and field. Next season, all Lincoln athletic programs will move up to Division II as the university increases its enrollment and upgrades its athletics, including the introduction of football in 2008.

What makes matters worse for a program with a national profile such as Lincoln men's and women's track is that the Lions will not be able to compete in the NCAA Division II national championships for the next two years because of a waiting period required by the NCAA.

That makes this year's Division III meet, which runs through Saturday, much more important to Jones and his teams.

"We're going to try to end this Division III championship on top," Jones said before the teams departed for Wisconsin. "They feel adamant about it. They want to win. I don't ever have to say anything. We'll get dressed up for the [pre-meet] banquet and we'll let people know this is our last time here and we want to be on top."

Jones, in his 33d year of coaching track at Lincoln, is a true university icon. He won his 17th national championship in March when the Lions captured the men's team title at the NCAA Division III indoor meet.

The basis of Jones' coaching philosophy is focus and discipline. Yet he is concerned that his runners and jumpers might be a little too excited and distracted for their Division III grand finale.

"There's a lot of hoorah going on this week, but they have to keep it to a minimum, as long as it doesn't get out of hand," Jones said. "Our jumpers, quarter-milers and hurdlers really have to step up, both men and women.

"The key is mental, getting them to stay focused. I always use Tiger Woods as a prime example. He can make a bad shot, but he's so focused he can come back and rectify that. Whether it's cell phones, friends or whatever, you can't let anyone take you out of what you're supposed to do. You have to keep focused."

The Lincoln men's team will be led by senior Bobby Young, who is seeking to win his third consecutive NCAA title in the 400 meters. Young also is part of the 4x400-meter relay team that will try to defend its crown from 2006.

On the women's side, junior Shanda Jackson is looking to repeat in the 100-meter dash. Jackson and senior Ashley Parker, The Inquirer's academic all-area women's track and field performer of the year, give the Lions an effective one-two punch in both the 100 and 200.

In all, 11 men and eight women qualified to compete this weekend for Lincoln.

For now, Jones is concentrating on the meet, but he can't help but wonder what lies ahead, especially how his holdovers and his current recruits will handle not being able to compete in the NCAA championship meet for two years.

"That's devastating for our kids," he said. "The kids are asking, 'Coach, what do we do for the next two years to make it exciting?' I haven't been able to answer. We could run in the Penn Relays and the IC4As and do well in them, but it's nothing like going to the NCAAs and holding up a big trophy."

The Lions enjoyed some success at last month's Penn Relays, capturing the IC4A men's 4x200 event in 1 minute, 25.32 seconds despite the absence of Young due to injury. They defeated five Division I schools in the race, edging out Morgan State and North Carolina-Wilmington at the tape.

Jones said he was nervous going into the weekend, as if he were running every race alongside his athletes. But he admits it will be a different feeling for him being in the Division III meet for the last time.

"Yes, I feel a little sad about it, certainly I do," he said. "The mission of the Division III schools is much different. They stress academics. The kids run because they want to run. They don't get paid [scholarships] to run. They're doing it for the love of it. The [other] schools don't have that camaraderie and closeness. I'm going to miss that."

Area athletes going to NCAA Fla. regionals

More than 30 athletes from Big Five schools, including nine individual champions, are scheduled to compete in the NCAA Division I Track and Field East Region meet tomorrow and Saturday in Gainesville, Fla.

The two-day competition, one of four regionals being conducted this weekend, will determine the field for the NCAA championships next month in Sacramento, Calif.

Villanova will send 13 contestants to the East Region, including Big East and ECAC champion Monique Morgan in the 100-meter hurdles. Morgan's best time for the season is 13.18 seconds.

Other Big East champions competing for the Wildcats include Elvis Lewis in the men's 400, Bobby Curtis in the men's 5,000 and Akilah Vargas, who captured the women's 800 at the Big East but will compete at 1,500 meters in the regional.

La Salle is represented by three Atlantic Ten champions - Rachel Papin (St. Hubert's High) in the women's 5,000, Sean Quigley in the men's 5,000 and James Tchabo in the men's 400. Tchabo is also a member of the Explorers' 4x400 relay that will compete at Florida after winning the A-10 title in the event.

Penn has a pair of 800-meter champions in the meet. Tim Kaijala captured the Heptagonal championship in 1:49.76 and Jesse Carlin took the ECAC title in 2:07.85. The Quakers also qualified their Heps-winning 4x100 relay team.

Here is a list of the other athletes seeking a chance to move on to the NCAA championships:

Villanova: Sean Tully (men's 800), Drew Eckman (men's 800), Michael Kerrigan (men's 1,500), Andrew Keino (men's 3,000-meter steeplechase), Robert McDade (men's discus), Arusha McKenzie (women's 800), Frances Koons (women's 1,500), Ellen Dougherty (women's 1,500) and Liz Gesel (women's 3,000-meter steeplechase).

La Salle: John Butler (men's 1,500), Ryan Moseley (men's long jump), Carolyn Lipovsky (women's 1,500), Christa Plummer (women's 5,000) and Danielle Schopf (women's 5,000).

Penn: Kyle Calvo (men's long jump) and Anthony Abitante (men's pole vault).

St. Joseph's: Michael DiDio (men's 1,500) and Teddy Meyers (men's 5,000).

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano

at 215-854-4494 or

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano

at 215-854-4494 or

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