Embree, Ajootian Cop Bronzes; Relay Tripped Up in NCAA
Mel Embree placed third in the high jump and Ed Ajootian copped a bronze medal in the 35-lb. weight throw to highlight Harvard's performance in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Indoor Track Championship held over the weekend in Detroit.
Embree and Ajootian accounted for all of the thinclads' meet total of six points, good for a 14th place tie with Hawaii, Wisconsin and Lousiana State. Texas ElPaso won the team title for an unprecedented third straight year while Villanova, which took third in the IC4A meet last weekend, was runner-up.
Embree's 7-ft. 2-in. jump behind winner Dwight Stones of Long Beach State and Georgia's Jim Barrineau Stones' leap of 7 ft. 2 3/4 in. tied the meet record set by Chris Dunn and Pat Matzdorf in 1972.
Barrineau also soared 7 ft. 2 in. but was awarded second place because he had fewer misses at lower heights.
Harvard's only other point winner in the two-day meet at Cobo Arena was Ajootian. The surprising sophomore took third place in the 35-lb. weight throw with a heave of 62 ft. 3 1/4 in.
UTEP's Emmitt Berry won the event at 65 ft. 8 in., as Mike Schomer of Western Michigan notched the runner-up spot.
"I'm not upset or anything," Embree said about his showing. "It was a good competition, even though a cramped jumping area forced us to take fewer steps."
For Embree, the third place finish marks a steady climb to national prominence.
Last winter, he tied for eighth place after an early season injury. In the outdoor NCAA finals last spring, he placed sixth.
"I'm in good position for the outdoor season," Embree added.
Coach Bill McCurdy said he has been impressed with Ajootian's progress throughout the season.
"While he was considered 'good' as a freshman, his best throw was only 56 feet. Now he's consistently in the 60's," McCurdy said.
"He deserves the success he has achieved," McCurdy noted. "He was all by his lonely while working out this fall."
The thinclads' other entrant in the event, Dan Jiggetts, did not place. "Danny's the kind of thrower whose balance is thrown out if his timing is just a little bit off," McCurdy said.
Harvard might have done better in the final standings had tragedy not befallen the Crimson's only other entrants, the twomile relay team.
With 20 yards to go in the 22-lap race, anchorman Jeff Campbell was tripped by an usher who had stepped on the track to retrieve some peanut shells thrown from the stands. Before the accident, Harvard was in fourth place, and challenging for third.
Campbell eventually finished but not until the two remaining teams in the race had crossed the line. The Crimson ended up sixth in the ten man field.
"We were made as hell afterwards," Campbell said. "He [the usher] didn't make any apologies to any of the team members."
"I really feel bad for the seniors [Joel Peters and Jim Springate]," Campbell went on. "This was their only chance for All-America honors." All-America status is awarded to the first five finishers in each event.
The coach noted that "Campbell probably would have run his best leg ever. He had a 52.1 for the first quarter."
"Everyone was sympathetic, but no one wanted to accept responsibility," McCurdy said of the race officials.
"We lost contention in the first three legs," continued McCurdy. "But Jeff put us right back in there. He had taken us from sixth place to almost third."
"Jeff had the guy one-to-one and couldn't out-fake him," he laughed. "Campbell's just a poor broken-field runner."