Pless wins third national title, men’s track takes 5th at NCAA’s

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Michael Bradley/Bates College

Doug Steinberg

Senior David Pless further solidified his place as one of Bates’ all-time great athletes in winning his third NCAA Championship in the shot put. Pless’s best throw measured 60 feet and 3 inches, and Pless also placed second in the weight throw with a best effort of 64 feet and 10.75 inches. Beyond extending his national title streak, Pless also became Bates’ first eight-time All-American. 

“This was the most significant nationals experience for me,” noted Pless, “Though I had won twice before, I was not jaded by my previous success. I was incredibly proud of the team. Everyone battled in the competition, which speaks volumes about their character.” 

The senior joins just 18 other athletes in NCAA Division III history who have won three or more indoor titles. Only two other men in NCAA history have claimed three shot put titles. 

Pless’ winning throw came on his first throw in finals, and was 19 3/4 inches beyond the second place finisher. 

Senior James LePage also performed well for Bates, setting a Bates record by finishing fourth in the 800 meters. On the first day of the meet, LePage, who came into the event seeded seventh, advanced to the finals as the fifth seed after a personal best 1:52.71 in the preliminary round. 

In the finals, LePage set Bates’ record in the 800 for the second time this season with a fourth-place time of 1:51.08. LePage led the race at the halfway mark before giving way to champion Jake Waterman of Wabash College. LePage wound up beating his seed from finals and finished just .14 seconds away from third place. The senior, along with the other top five finishers in the event, broke the facility record. 

Outside of Pless and LePage, Bates finished fifth as a team in Division III, but the Bobcats just missed out on achieving All-American status in three other events. Three athletes finished ninth, and the top eight athletes achieved All-American. 

Bates placed behind four teams from Wisconsin in the final rankings and dominated NESCAC rival Tufts, who finished 14th. No other NESCAC school finished in the top 25. 

Junior two-time cross-country All-American Tully Hannan ran his fastest mile ever in 4:12.93, an impressive showing. Hannan was seeded last coming into finals but beat four competitors who came into the event with faster times. The junior’s personal best mile moved him into sixth place on Bates’ all-time performance list in the event. 

Also finishing ninth was sophomore Sean Enos, who threw for 55 feet and 1.5 inches in the shot put. 

Pless has previously credited his teammates with much of his success, commenting that, “The real key to my success… has been my teammates, especially Sean Enos. I would not be half that athlete I am without my teammates.” 

Bates’ distance medley relay team placed an agonizing ninth in the final, just two seconds away from an All-American slot. The quartet of junior Noah Graboys, junior Ben Levy, sophomore John Stansel, and senior Nick Barron finished the final in 10:08.10. Graboys led the team in the 1200 meter leg, Levy competed in the 400, Stansel the 800, and Barron finished the race with the 1600. Bates finished third in the event a year ago and Graboys, Levy, and Barron were all part of that team. 

This Bates team set a record in sending eight athletes to compete in the NCAA Championships, held at North Central College in Illinois, only three of whom (Pless, LePage, and Barron) will graduate at the end of this year. 

Bates women’s track team’s lone representative at NCAA’s, senior Bud Arens, also had an impressive showing. Arens, like the majority of the men’s team, finished ninth in the 800 meters, just one place and less than one second out of the eighth spot, which would have given her All-America honors. 

The senior started out the race aggressively, leading at the 200 meter mark. Even though the top runners in the heat managed to pass her, Arens held off two runners at the finish line, outpacing them by 0.08 and 0.13 seconds and finishing in 2:15.07. The second heat turned out to be faster than the first, and Arens missed out on qualifying for finals by less than a second. 

With the indoor season coming to an end, the Bobcats will look to build off their success in the NCAA Championships in the outdoor season. Last year, the men won the NESCAC title for the second