LA CROSSE, Wis. – Heading into the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field National Championships with a contingent of five student-athletes competing in eight events, the goal for Salisbury University was to compete hard, do their best and come home with as many All-American performances as possible.
The Sea Gulls saw five chances for titles in event finals, coming back from Wisconsin with three All-American awards and two national championships. Freshman Luke Campbell, in his first outdoor championship appearance, earned his first national championship with two All-American performances, while senior Chelsea Tavik capped her stellar career with her second individual national championship.
Campbell entered the championship seeded 10th in the 110-meter hurdles and 12th in the 400-meter hurdles, but those seedings are generally separated by just fractions of seconds. The Brunswick, Md., native proved you just need to qualify, and one great performance can mean everything.
Campbell started his day Saturday with the 110 hurdles finals with a narrow finish, crossing the finish line in 14.43 seconds, leaning just past Marietta College's Ryan Lopez-Jordan by .01 of a second, for the national title.
"I thought it was one of the best races I've had all season," Campbell said. "I got out to a really good start and was really consistent over the hurdles. I looked over as I crossed the finish line and saw the competitor from Marietta. I knew it was going to be a one-two finish, but when I looked up and saw my name as the champion, I was so happy."
Campbell was not done, coming back less than two hours later to run the 400-meter hurdles. Despite still being on the high of his first national championship, Campbell was able to focus, running a personal-record time of 51.82 seconds, to place third and garner his third career All-American award.
"I think it's a big surprise," Campbell said. "It's a big blessing, with so many great competitors and great times. I was going to be happy to place and get an All-American, but to come out on top is a great feeling that I can't even describe."
With Campbell's finishes, the Salisbury men finished the championship meet with 16 points, which earned the team a tie for 13th place in the overall standings.
While Campbell is finishing just his first collegiate season, Tavik was finishing out her career in grand fashion.
A previous national champion in the shot put at the 2012 indoor championships, Tavik was one of the favorites in the same event this weekend. The Glen Burnie, Md., native knew a big start would make a big impression on the rest of the competition.
"I knew if I popped a big one and made everyone chase me, I'd be the lead runner for the whole meet," Tavik said.
Happy with the circle, which was slick and had lots of speed, that strong start is precisely what she was able to do, with a first heave of 48' 11", which would not be topped by another competitor the rest of the day.
But the first effort was just the third-best legal try by Tavik on the day, as she crossed the 50-foot threshold, which had eluded her for the first three years of her collegiate career, twice.
Her third throw of the day traveled 50' 2", becoming just the seventh Division III student-athlete to hit that milestone, but it was not as good as it would get. Tavik's final scoring throw of the day went 50' 3.25", the fifth-best throw in Division III history.
"All in all, it was the perfect meet to end my career on," Tavik said. "I went out with the bang that I wanted."
Tavik would come back later in the afternoon to compete in the javelin throw, with her best effort covering 126' 4", to place 15th.
By the end of the evening, the emotion of the end of her career had started to kick in.
"Eveybody looks to make their mark, and I'm just really happy that I made mine," Tavik said. "This is definitely the way I wanted to wrap up my college career. I hope I set some high standards for the shot putters that come into Salisbury University. Hopefully, my records will stand for a couple more years."
Tavik graduates as the most decorated female student-athlete in program history, with five All-American awards, and currently holds six school records.
The Salisbury track & field programs have now accounted for eight individual national championships, and with Tavik's and Campbell's combined three All-American honors on Saturday, the programs has 39 total, 24 of which have been earned since 2005.