Entering the 2011 NJCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Gowans Stadium, Hutchinson Community College head coach Pat Becher had led 16 Blue Dragon national champions in his 25 seasons.
National championship Nos. 17 and 18 had a bit of historical significance for Becher, not to mention it happened on Becher’s home turf, Gowans Stadium.
Already with one national crown notched away this weekend, Blue Dragon sophomore John Talbert captured a second championship on Saturday, winning the men’s discus and thus becoming Becher’s first-ever double national champion in a single NJCAA championship meet.
“Nobody is more deserving than John,” Becher said. “Nobody has worked harder. That’s the kind of kid you want to have this kind of success.
“He deserves it, but I think coaches Terry Masterson and Rex Mathias deserve praise too. They’re coach the throwers, and they got nine throwers here to the national meet.”
The last multiple Hutchinson national champion was Teddy Poole, who won sprint national titles in three national meets – indoor and outdoor in 2007 and 2008. But he never doubled up in a single meet like Talbert.
On Thursday, Talbert used his final attempt to win the national hammer throw championship and set a school record for the fourth time this season. On Saturday, there wasn’t the dramatic finish as there was on Thursday, but the result was just as nice for both thrower and coach.
Talbert’s second throw of preliminaries went 170 feet, 6 inches to take a lead he never relinquished, But on his second throw of finals, the Newton product uncorked a throw of 170 feet, 11 inches. Barton’s Frank Afriyle was second at 167-05.
“I didn’t deserve to get two national championships in one meet,” Talbert said. “Frank is a good thrower, and I expected him to push me, and he did. Everyone kind of struggled today. It’s the end of a long year, and the wind was not good for discus today.”
Talbert wraps up his sophomore season with a pair of national titles to go with two Region VI titles, A Region VI Field Athlete of the Meet award, a team Jayhawk West championship and a pair of school records in the hammer and javelin.
“I’m excited to get some rest,” Talbert said. “It’s been a long year, but a good year.”
Talbert scored 20 of Hutchinson’s 22 team points, which was 14th in the championships. South Plains won a fourth-straight national men’s title with 132 points. Barton was the top Region VI team, finishing third with 69 points.
Talbert’s sister, Sarah, figured into the scoring for the Hutchinson women on Saturday. Sarah Talbert finished eighth in the discus with a throw of 133 feet, 9 inches to score a single point for the Lady Dragons.
The other women’s points came from sophomore Holly Brown, who scored in a national championship for a second-straight year. Finishing fifth in 2010, Brown closed her Lady Dragon career with a seventh-place finish in the javelin with a season’s best throw and second-best throw of her career at 128 feet, 10 inches. Brown’s career-best throw came in the 2010 NJCAA championships.
The HCC women tied for 24th in the team race with three points.
One other Blue Dragons scored points the final day of competition, which ended a three-year run that Gowans played host to the championship. Sophomore Malcolm Chinn tied for eighth in the long jump with a leap of 26 feet, 2 ½ inches.
Other HCC performances on the final day of competition:
+ Cassie Wiley finished 12th in the high jump after clearing 5-1.
+ Annelle Chestnut placed ninth in the 1,500 meters with a time of 5:09.79.
+ Monica Gardiner was 11th in the javelin with a throw of 118-5.
+ Robert Dunn placed 12th in the discus with a throw of 140-5.
+ Tyler Rambo placed 14th in the discus with a throw of 136-6.