WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - With junior Luke Campbell adding his fifth individual national championship in three seasons thanks to his second indoor 60-meter hurdles title, and sophomore Meghan McGowan and Campbell both earning All-American status, the 2015 NCAA Division III indoor track & field national championships proved to be a successful meet for the Salisbury University men's and women's track & field teams on Saturday.
Campbell was competing in his third indoor national championship meet and came into the day with the momentum of winning his heat in the preliminary races of the 60-meter hurdles just a day earlier, with the second-fastest time of the day (7.99 seconds) to advance to the finals race.
"It was kind of nerve racking, being back to try and defend. There is always a target on your back, and there were a lot of good guys that stepped up this year. I knew it wasn't going to be an easy race," Campbell said. "There were a lot of things from the preliminaries that I felt I could improve into the finals race, and I felt like once I had that down I had a good shot at winning it."
Already the defending national champion in the event, Campbell shot out of the blocks in an even start to the race, but after the first two hurdles, the Brunswick, Maryland native began to pull away from the pack, along with Aurora University's Bobby Cooks and Wabash College's Ronnie Posthauer. Running neck-and-neck through the final three hurdles, Campbell made his final push at the finish line.
"It was definitely a battle from the start. In between the hurdles, I could see in my peripherals that everyone was kind of pushed up and tight, and it seemed like it was anyone's game," Campbell said. "I tried to lean right at the end, and I ended up tumbling over. When I looked up at my time I thought I was disqualified from that. I kept waiting for my time to come up on the board, but it just kept going on and on and I started to panic. I started accepting that I had been disqualified somehow, so I just walked off, but someone tapped me on the shoulder and was like 'Hey, look at the board again,' and I saw my name. I was just relieved."
As the trio crossed the finish, it was initially unclear to who would be crowned the national champion, as a final time was not listed next to Campbell's name in the results and Cooks was announced as first place. Upon further review of the photo finish, Campbell came out on top for his second indoor national title in the 60-meter hurdles, finishing in a time of 7.93 seconds, .06 seconds faster than his preliminary time. He came in .02 seconds faster than Cooks in second.
"It seemed like forever, but it was maybe a good two to three minutes," the junior said. "It was mixed emotions, I was still kind of upset about not seeing my name up there but once I saw it, I was just relieved."
With the win, Campbell earned his seventh overall All-American honor, and his third indoor All-American selection, with all three coming in the hurdles in each season as a Sea Gull.
McGowan made her first national championship meet appearance this season, qualifying for the championships by tying for seventh in the country with a jump of 5' 6.5" at the Eastern College Athletic Conference championships in the high jump last weekend.
She got off to a flawless start, clearing the first three heights in the championship meet on her first try at each height.
"I am always very nervous before the first jump," McGowan said. "Once I cleared the first height all of the nerves where gone, and I just knew it was game on from that point on."
The third height she cleared of 5' 5" tied McGowan for fifth in the meet, allowing her to finish higher than her seed and earning the Odenton, Maryland native her first All-American status.
"It felt incredible. I was seeded to get seventh but tied for fifth. Doing better than what I was supposed to do was an achievement in itself," McGowan said. "I put my mind to all of my goals this season and ended up achieving them. It was just a great feeling to get to where I needed to be."
The All-American honors give Salisbury 45 in the history of the men's and women's track & field programs, while Campbell's championship is the 12th individual national championship for the Sea Gulls.
Campbell, McGowan, and the Sea Gulls will continue the beginning for their outdoor season on Saturday, March 28 at the Big Dawg Invitational at UMBC; the meet is set to begin at 9 a.m.