by Benny Benton
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Barton College sophomore Larry Russell became the school's first indoor track All-American on Friday after earning the honor with an eighth-place finish in the high jump at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships.
"Being a sophomore and having a longer season than he's used to, competing at a higher level, I was really happy to see Larry walk away with an All-American award," Barton head coach David Nicholson said. "It's been a long year whether he realizes it yet or not, and he's really worked his tail off. I'm really proud of him, and I'm happy he was able to see the fruits of his labor pay off."
After a disappointing 15th-place finish in the long jump on Thursday in his first appearance on the national stage, Russell was able to deliver a better result on Friday in the high jump, successfully clearing the bar at 2.02 meters and 2.07 before bowing out with three misses at 2.10.
|Russell, right, with Barton head coach David Nicholson following the awards ceremony.|
"Today the energy was a lot higher," Nicholson said. "Larry was a lot more comfortable. You could tell it in his warm-up, you could tell when he was out there taking his approaches. He was a lot more free today. He needed that day of competition (Thursday) under his belt so he was able to perform today.
"I think the majority of the field today did not improve on their initial qualifying marks that got them here. It's a real tough thing to show up at nationals and perform, no matter who you are. Larry really brought it today. He had fun out there, which was the most important thing."
The Sicklerville, N.J., resident cleared the bar at both 2.02 and 2.07 on his second attempt, and nearly completed the jump at 2.10 on both his first and third attempts.
"On his first attempt at 2.1, he actually clipped it with his heels. He was already over it," Nicholson said. "The third one, he was a good eight to ten inches over the bar, and I think he might have hit it with his butt when he dropped over the back. He had the height and the speed. And part of feeling comfortable to go out there and compete is learning how to contain the energy and the excitement. Being able to compete at this level definitely takes a learning curve, and today he showed a little bit of that."
Only five competitors made it past the 2.10 mark, and just four surpassed the 2.13 mark which Russell posted at the Conference Carolinas Championships in qualifying for nationals. Mikel Smith of Saint Martin's University in Washington eventually won the national title with a leap of 2.22 meters, or 7 feet, 3 1/4 inches.
"Hopefully we can show back up at outdoors and be able to make it back to the podium," Nicholson said. "But this was a very, very big step for Larry in his collegiate career. He's a wonderful kid to coach, and I was happy I could help get him here.".