Judges take individual, relay team honors at NCAA indoor track championships

Emily Bryson '19 nails a national championship in the 3,000 meters

Members of Brandeis' 2018 indoor track team: Leini Valdez '21, Lisbeth Valdez '21, Irie Gourde '17, Emily Bryson '19,  Julia Bryson '19, Doyin Ogundiran '19Photo: Adam Levin '94

Members of Brandeis' 2018 indoor track team, l to r: Leini Valdez '21, relay team alternate; Lisbeth Valdez '21, relay team member; Irie Gourde '17, Brande's first male All American since 2012; Emily Bryson '19, 3000 meter national champion; Julia Bryson '19, relay team member; Doyin Ogundiran '19, relay team member.

It was a spectacular weekend for Brandeis Track and Field at the NCAA Division III Indoor Championships in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 9 and 10. The Judges sent six student-athletes to compete at the national meet, and they came home with six All-America trophies.

Photos of all the action can be found here.

The highlight of the meet for Brandeis came in the next-to-last race of the weekend on Saturday evening. Junior Emily Bryson of Quincy, Massachusetts, had earned the 17th and final spot in the 3,000-meter run. She made the most of the chance by using a burst of speed on the last two laps, covering the final 200 meters in 30.67 seconds, by far the fastest lap of the race. Bryson pulled away from the pack to win the race with a school-record time of 9:33.99, the ninth-fastest time in Division III history.

"I felt so good headed into the final 400 meters," Bryson said. "I didn't want to go too early, knowing how many other great runners there were in the race, but [head coach] Sinead [Evans] talked to me before the race about being patient. I was ready to go on those last two laps."

Bryson is Brandeis women's track and field's first individual national champion since 1997, when Victoria Petrillo '99 won the 800-meters, and the first by any Judge since Geoff Getz '99 in 1999. She is Brandeis's first 3,000-meter All-American since 1993, when Theresa Patten '94 earned honors outdoors. Her time eclipsed the school record held by Nicole Fogarty '89 since the late 1980s by six seconds and was the ninth-fastest time in Division III history.

With her second All-America honor of the meet, Bryson became the first Judge to finish in the top eight in two events since 2003, when Mariko Tansey Holbrook Neveu '03 finished fifth in the 5,000-meters and third in the distance medley relay.

"I spent a lot of hours at Gosman," Bryson said. "And standing on top of that podium, it really felt like all that hard work paid off. Sinead has been great and had so much confidence in me. My coaches and teammates were so supportive all year long."

"She ran brilliant," Evans said. "This was a goal all season long, to compete for a national title in the DMR [in which the Judges finished 3rd on Friday night] and the 3,000. Emily was in great shape. I knew if she was within range of the leaders, she had the kick to win it, and she did exactly what she wanted to do."

On Friday night, Bryson anchored Brandeis's distance medley relay team to All-America honors with a third-place finish of 11:42.97 in the last race of the first day of action, setting a school record in the process. Brandeis ran three juniors and one first-year. Junior Julia Bryson - Emily's twin sister - opened up with the 1,200-meter leg, handing off to rookie Lisbeth Valdez of Providence, Rhode Island, for the 400-meters. Junior Doyin Ogundiran of Dix Hills, New York took the 800-meter leg, and moved the Judges into the top eight, All-American position. She passed the baton to Emily Bryson who pushed the Judges into third place, nipping regional rivals MIT down the stretch.

"Everyone ran brilliantly," said head coach Sinead Evans. "It's such a tactical race. Julia did exactly what we wanted her to do leading off. Lisbeth - a freshman at her first nationals, who has been so consistent all season long - executed her plan just like she wanted to. Doyin ran one of her fastest 800s of the season and brought everyone back in, and Emily just reeled them in. It was an exciting race."

Emily Bryson and Ogundiran both passed up chances at individual glory to contribute to the team event. Bryson was ranked second in Division III in the mile run entering the meet, while Ogundiran was eighth in the 800-meter run, but both chose to focus their efforts on the DMR.

On the men's side, graduate student Irie Gourde of Portland, Oregon, represented the Brandeis men, and took home his first career All-America honor. Gourde, who was the first Brandeis male to compete in multiple events at the same meet since 1996, was ranked second in Division III in the 400-meter dash and 10th in the 200.

On Friday, despite a disappointing 13th-place showing in the 400 with a time of 48.78 seconds in the preliminaries in his first race of the day, Gourde bounced back an hour later to advance to the finals in the 200. With a time of 21.91 seconds, he finished second in his 200 heat and fifth overall. In the finals, Gourde placed eighth in 22.09 seconds, claiming his first career All-America honor and the first by a Brandeis male since 2012. This is just Gourde's second indoor season with the Judges, having joined the team as a senior undergraduate last year.

"Irie showed incredible poise after his 400-meter prelim didn't go his way," said assistant coach Steve Flanagan. "He refocused and delivered immediately to earn a deserved All-America honor in the 200. That kind of resolve represents so much of what we aspire to be as a program."

By scoring 16 points, the women's team finished in 14th place overall in the team standings, sixth among New England schools - including champions UMass Boston and runners-up Williams - and third among University Athletic Association schools. Gourde's one point on the men's side tied Brandeis for 60th place in the men's standings.

Brandeis Track and Field will take two weeks off then return to action for the outdoor season March 24th at Bridgewater State.

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