LINCOLN — A runner from Down Under on Friday became the first collegiate runner to break one of track and field’s magical barriers at the Devaney Center.
Adams (Colo.) State junior Kevin Batt became the first college runner in Devaney history to break four minutes in the mile when the native of Sydney, Australia, broke the tape in a new collegiate, facility record of 3:59.70 at the Nebraska Tune-Up.
“I was just driving to the line. I heard the crowd and I knew I got underneath it,” Batt said. “I was just stoked, I was so happy with it.”
Batt, the defending NCAA Division II champion in the indoor 3,000 meters, is in his first season running the mile and moved to the top of the Division II charts for this year. He became only the second miler ever to break the four-minute mark at the Devaney Center. Bernard Lagat, the American record-holder in the indoor mile who was then running for his native Kenya, set the track record with a 3:55.07 at a professional meet at the Devaney Center in 2002.
Batt joined two teammates to pull away from the field in search of the four-minute milestone for a 1-2-3 finish. Adams State senior Tabor Stevens finished in 4:00.90 followed by junior Matt Daniels in 4:02.91. Daniels finished nearly 11 seconds in front of the fourth-place runner.
“Our coach sent us out with the goal to run under four minutes,” Batt said. “You don’t get many opportunities to try to run under four minutes in the mile. Coach said ‘You’ve got to do it this weekend,’ so the pressure was on.”
Batt’s track record was the highlight of a meet that, as its title would indicate, is a run-up to next week’s conference championships. The Huskers can take 32 men and 32 women to the Big Ten meet in Geneva, Ohio, and with their places secure, many of Nebraska’s top competitors sat out the meet to rest. However, that didn’t keep several Huskers from earning trips to the top of the medal stand Friday.
For the men, sophomore Levi Gipson won the 600 in 1:18.54, a time that ranks fifth in the conference. Gipson put up a conference-best time of 1:17.65 earlier this season.
Jake Pinion, a redshirt freshman from Blair, won the men’s weight throw with a personal-best toss of 55 feet, 9 inches.
On the women’s side, Nebraska senior Shawnice Williams, who ranks second in the Big Ten in the 600, won the event Friday in 1:29.7 followed by teammate Ellen Dougherty in 1:31.93.
Husker women also went 1-2 in the pole vault and the weight throw. Sophomore Paula Andrie, ranked third in the conference, won with a vault of 12 feet, 103⁄4 inches while classmate Tess Merrill vaulted 12-023⁄4.
NU senior Veronica Grizzle’s toss of 64-91⁄4 was good enough to win the weight throw, with sophomore Tristen Sharp finishing second at 55-3.
Two more Husker women set season bests in runner-up efforts. Ellie Grooters finished second in the 400 in 54.71, easily eclipsing her previous personal-best time of 56.74. Junior Marusa Cernjul’s jump of 5-91⁄4 was good for second in the high jump, her best indoor mark as a Husker.
“A lot of the kids competing today won’t make the conference (roster), but we knew that ahead of time,” NU coach Gary Pepin said. “This is like their championships.”