National Champion Runner
Tufts junior Mitchell Black felt a fair amount of pressure heading into the NCAA Division III Men’s Indoor Track and Field Championships this past weekend in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Black, E16, entered the meet ranked number one in the 800 meters. Earlier in the season, he became just the fourth runner in Division III history to run a sub-1:50 in the event, timing 1:49.16 at Boston University’s David Hemery Valentine Indoor Invitational on Feb. 13. Even with the time converted to a 1:50.72 due to the banked track at BU, he was the clear favorite in the NCAA title race.
Added to those expectations, Black had twice previously gone into NCAA 800 races as one of the favorites to win, but came up short. He finished third indoors in March 2014 and was the runner-up at the NCAA outdoor meet in May 2014.
This time, though, he came through in the clutch. He won the 2015 NCAA indoor 800-meters title on March 14 with a time of 1:51.94, one second faster than Michael Harnish from Lebanon Valley College (1:52.95).
“Winning this time around was a massive weight off my shoulders,” he says. “It was something I’ve chased for over a year now, and failing twice only made the feeling sweeter.”
During the 800-meter preliminaries on March 13, Black clocked the fastest time to advance to Saturday’s final. He won his preliminary heat with a time of 1:52.91. Heading into the final, he and Tufts coach Ethan Barron, G05, knew he could win it all if he executed his game plan.
“We both thought that if I put myself in position to kick hard with a lap to go that there wasn’t anyone in the race who would be able to hold on,” Black said.
After just over an hour of rest following the NCAA 800 race, Black joined freshman Andrew DiMaiti and juniors Alex Kasemir and Francis Goins for the 4x400-meter relay. The quartet clocked a time of 3:18.80 to grab the eighth and final All-America spot.
Black is now a seven-time All-American in indoor and outdoor track and field. In addition to four 800 All-American finishes, he also has three relay All-American honors indoors. This was the fifth straight national championship for which Black has qualified during his Tufts career.
On the Wednesday before the race, Black was named the 2015 New England Region’s Men’s Track Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
His 800 qualifying time was the fastest in Division III since Ben Scheetz of Amherst set the DIII record of 1:47.43 at the New England Intercollegiate Amateur Athletic Association Championships in 2012. It also broke Black’s own school record and earned him the NCAA Division III Men’s National Athlete of the Week honor from the USTFCCCA. The 1:49.16 finish was within the USA Track and Field indoor qualifying standard (1:49.50).
This season Black also ran Tufts’ best times in the 600 meters (1:20.21) and the 1,000 meters (2:28.24). His performance in the 1,000 won the New England Division III title. In addition, he anchored the 4x800 relay, which won the New England DIII race with a time of 7:57.32.
With the outdoor season starting shortly, Black looks forward to continuing his momentum.
“Now a couple days of rest are in store, and then the focus is back on outdoor,” he says. “I plan to come back stronger and throw down some fast times this spring, while also adding a little bit of range to my sweet spot, which has been the 800.”
Tufts Sports Information Director Paul Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.