By Tim Glon
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — It took a photo finish, a collision (and nasty spill) at the tape and a 25-minute officials review, but senior Matt Molinaro (Sterling Heights, Mich./DeLaSalle) is officially a national champion in the 800-meter run on the final day of the NCAA Division III Men's Indoor Track & Field Championships on Saturday at the Birmingham Cross Plex.
Molinaro won by just .03 of a second, in 1:51.80, edging Chicago's Joe Previdi at the wire.
Molinaro led by several meters coming down the home stretch when Previdi tried to pass Molinaro on the inside, causing the collision.
Molinaro took a spill and hit his head on the inside bumper of the track just a few meters across the finish line, while Previdi landed further down the track.
"I didn't feel as good as on Friday, but as I was coming down the back stretch and off the final turn I thought I had it. The guy from Chicago made a good run to my inside and we got tangled up at the finish line. It took me five (NCAA Championships) tries and I didn't make it easy, but I got it done!"
Molinaro won his heat of the 800 in 1:51.96 and was the top seed entering the finals.
He is a 3-time All-American in the 800, earning the honors twice indoors and once outdoors. He was the top seed entering the event with a qualifying time of 1:50.14.
"I am so proud of Matt finally becoming a national champion," ONU head coach Jason Maus said. "He made it exciting at the end for sure. But he has kept battling through the near-misses the last three years and got it done today."
On Friday, junior Ian McVey (Stow/Stow-Munroe Falls) earned All-America honors with a fifth place finish in the 5,000-meter run
McVey rallied on the final lap, passing four runners to improve from ninth to fifth place, and finished in 14:34.21.
This is his first appearance at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. He was seeded 15th with a school record time of 15:31.11.
McVey was also an All-American in men's cross country, finishing 10th at the 2017 Championships, running the 8,000-meter course in 24:37.
As a team, the Polar Bears finished tied for 13th place with 14 points, the second-highest team finish in school history.
Couple Molinaso's win in the 800 with Ohio Northern's Emily Richards winning the Women's 800, it marks just the second time in Division III history and the fourth time at any NCAA level that athletes from the same school swept the 800-meter titles.