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Rio Grande men RSC runners-up; Paxton Coach of the Year

Apr. 29—By RANDY PAYTON

Sports Information Director

NEVILLE ISLAND, Pa. — Point Park University may have topped the University of Rio Grande for a third straight River States Conference Men's Track & Field championship on Friday at the P3R Track & Field Complex at the RMU Island Sports Center, but the margin of victory most likely had the Pioneers sweating things out significantly more than in recent outings.

The RedStorm compiled 153 points over the course of the two-day event, just 27 fewer than Point Park's total of 180.

The Pioneers, who won for the fourth time in the last five competitions, defeated Rio Grande by 120 points in last year's outdoor event and by 114 points at the indoor championships earlier this year.

"Today, we were within 13 points with two events to go. We didn't quite have enough athletes to get them, but we absolutely closed the gap pretty quickly," said Rio Grande head coach Matt Paxton, who was named the RSC Coach of the Year in his first season at the helm of the RedStorm.

Indiana University Kokomo finished in third place with 107 points, while Shawnee State University was fourth with 102 points.

Point Park, which is in its final season as a member of the NAIA and the RSC before heading to the ranks of NCAA Division II next year, secured the title with three big event wins on Friday. The Pioneers came through with a victory in the 4×100 to start Day 2, while Kanye Mills won both the 110- and 400-meter hurdles later in the day.

For good measure, PPU figured highly in the final two events of the meet placing second in the very closely contested 4×400 and second in the triple jump.

Rio Grande tallied 34 point-scoring finishes in the competition, including 31 individually.

One of the three relay performances — a first place finish for the 4×800 squad comprised of junior Danuel Persinger (Bidwell, OH), freshman Ashton Beverly (Chillicothe, OH), freshman Kasy Science (Marietta, OH) and senior Kyle Lightner (Peebles, OH) — met the "B" qualifying standard for next month's NAIA National Championships.

The quartet crossed the finish line in a school- and conference-record time of 7:44.67.

Science also had one of Rio's two winning performances individually, taking first in the 800-meter run with a personal-best time of 1:55.00.

Graduate senior AJ Gruttadauro had the other with his win the 5,000-meter racewalk. The Brockport, N.Y. native, who had previously qualified for the NAIA Nationals, recorded a personal-best time of 23:03.72.

A handful of RedStorm athletes recorded multiple scoring performances.

Freshman Rowen Gerlach (New Haven, WV), senior Chase McClay (McDermott, OH) and junior Marshall Jackson (Zanesfield, OH) all had three each.

Gerlach was third in the discus (43.16m), fourth in the shot put (14.29m) and seventh in the hammer throw (44.84m), while McClay was fourth in the 400-meter dash with a personal-best mark of 50.47 in addition to fourth in the 400-meter hurdles (57.66m) and seventh in the 200-meter dash (25.53).

Jackson was sixth in the discus throw (40.76m), eighth in the shot put (13.43m) and eighth in the hammer throw (44.04m).

Sophomore Tyler Jenkins (Barnesville, OH), Lightner, sophomore Daunevyn Woodson (Charleston, WV), Beverly, Persinger, junior Jorden Williams (Springfield, OH) and graduate senior Eric Weber (Bidwell, OH) all had two scoring finishes as individuals.

Jenkins was the runner-up in the 5,000-meter run after crossing in 14:55.93 and placing third in the 1,500-meter run (4:00.74), while Lightner was the runner-up in the 800-meter run with a personal-best mark of 1:55.69 and seventh in the javelin throw at 43.19m.

Woodson placed third in the long jump at 6.67m and was sixth in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.05, while Beverly was fourth in the 800 with a personal-best time of 1:57.06 and seventh in the 1,500 after crossing in 4:03.47.

Persinger had a new personal-best time of 4:01.37 to finish fourth in the 1,500 and was seventh in the 5,000 at 15:40.33.

Williams was fifth in the 400 hurdles (59.46) and sixth in the 110-meter hurdles (16.47), while Weber was fifth in the hammer throw (45.07m) and eighth in the discus throw (40.18m).

Rio's best remaining individual outing came from senior Haden Karshner (Circleville, OH), who was runner-up in the hammer throw at 46.58m.

The remaining scoring showings for the RedStorm came from freshman Teddy Jencson (Baltimore, OH), who was third in the 3,000-meter Steeplechase with a personal-best time of 9:38.56; freshman Zach Whitley (Wheelersburg, OH), who was fifth in the 5,000-meter racewalk with a new personal-best mark of 26:45.56; sophomore Hunter Blagg (Pedro, OH), who placed sixth in the pole vault after clearing 3.50m; junior Andrew Skaggs (Minford, OH), who was seventh in the long jump with an effort of 6.33m; and sophomore Mugisha Pomossene (Kampala, Uganda), who took eighth place in the 10,000-meter run with a personal-best showing of 33:09.86.

Rio's remaining relay teams — the 4×100 and 4×400 — both finished fourth.

The 4×100 crossed in a time of 43.81. The quartet included Williams, Woodson, McClay, and freshman Brayden Adams who ran for Rock Hill High School.

The 4×400 team — comprised of McClay, Beverly, Science and Lightner- posted a time of 3:24.87.

Point Park's Akeem Mustapha was named RSC Men's Track & Field Newcomer of the Year. He led the Pioneers in points with 24.5 in the meet. He won the long jump, anchored the victory in a very tight 4×100, placed second in the triple jump and fifth in the high jump.

Shawnee State took home two big individual awards with distance runner Aiden Kammler named RSC Men's Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year and thrower Justin Moore named RSC Men's Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year.

Kammler led all men's scoring at the meet with 32 points. He won the 10,000 on Thursday and then the 1,500 and 5,000 on Friday. He rewrote conference distance history with RSC records in all three. Moore scored 18 points in the meet placing first in the shot put and second in the discus.

IU Kokomo's third-place finish was led by Julian Wallace, who scored 27 points as the second-highest men's scorer in the championship. He lifted the Cougars into third place anchoring the 4×400 victory in the final lap 0.01 seconds ahead of Point Park.

There were seven RSC Championship records set this year. Kammler had three of those in the 10,000 (30:48.92), 1,500 (3:55.35) and 5,000 (14:46.29). Jakob Blatnik from Point Park set the javelin record at 67.34 meters. Jannik Windelband setting a record in the 3,000 steeplechase (9:23.24) and Kanye Mills in the 110 hurdles (14.40) were two more records for Point Park.

Also named was the RSC Men's Outdoor Track & Field Champions of Character Team honoring one member from each school who best exhibits the NAIA Champions of Character traits of respect, responsibility, integrity, servant leadership and sportsmanship.

Weber represented Rio on the list.

Rio Grande is scheduled to return to action on Saturday at the WVU Last Chance Meet in Morgantown, W.Va.