Bates’ Duncan second in NCAA hammer throw


GREENCASTLE, Ind. – Bates College senior Vantiel Elizabeth Duncan of Topsham had her finest day in an already highlight-rich career on Friday, notching a pair of personal records en route to taking second place in the women’s weight throw with a top heave of 60 feet and one-half inch, or 18.30 meters, at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Duncan’s first throw of the day soared 58 feet and one quarter-inch, the best of her career by nearly six inches. That effort would ultimately prove to be good enough to place her fifth overall on its own (which would match her No. 5 seeding out of 16 competitors in the event), and it was the best in her flight.

“To do that on my first throw, that was the right sign for me,” said Duncan. “It told me that it was going to be a good day, no matter what.”

But on Duncan’s sixth throw of the day, her third and final effort in the finals, Duncan heaved the weight past the 60-foot mark for the first time in her career, at 60-5, or 2 feet and 5 inches beyond her personal best before the day began. The final weight throw of her career (the weight throw is strictly an indoor event) put Duncan second only to the champion, Holly Ozanich of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and 1 1/2 inches past the best effort of third-place finisher Kristin Constantine of the University of Chicago.

Finally, Duncan had joined Liz Wanless ’04 and Keelin Godsey ’06 in the 60-foot club at Bates, “which I take a lot of pride in,” she said. Her grandfather, Lawrence Duncan Jr., later pointed out in during her phone call home, she had thrown beyond the length of the family’s house in Topsham.

“The throwers (at Bates) have a saying: ‘Last one, best one,'” said Duncan. “Today as I walked out into the circle for the last one, I said out loud but to myself, ‘Last one, best one, senior year.’ I put everything that I had been doing in practice behind me and threw my heart out.”

It is the highest NCAA finish yet for Duncan, who now is a four-time NCAA All-American. She will also compete in the shot put on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

On Thursday, the day before the NCAA Championship meet began, Duncan was honored as the New England Women’s Field Athlete of the Year, as the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association unveiled its 2010 Division III Region Award Winners for Indoor Track & Field.

McNeil 11th, Chapman 12th

Senior thrower Rich McNeil and first-year pentathlete Jesse Chapman represented Bates on the men’s side.

McNeil, of Lawrence, Mass., missed the finals in the weight throw and finished 11th overall with a top effort of 57-7 1/2, one place better than his No. 12 seeding entering the event.

Earlier on Friday, Chapman, of East Thetford, Vt., scored 3,325 points in the pentathlon to finish 12th out of 13 competitors, 30 points behind 11th-place Richard Roethel of Christopher Newport University and 171 points under his Bates record-setting performance last week at the ECAC Division III Championships.

McNeil, a team captain and two-time All-American making his fourth trip to an NCAA Championship and his first to an indoor national meet, will compete in the shot put on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Woodhead honored again

Longtime men’s and women’s assistant throws coach Joe Woodhead was named the New England Region Women’s Assistant Coach of the Year as the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association unveiled its 2010 Division III Region Award Winners for Indoor Track & Field.

In May 2008 Woodhead also earned New England Men’s Track and Field Assistant Coach of the Year honors from the USTFCCCA.

Woodhead coached the Bates women’s weight throwers to a 1-3-4 finish at the New England Division III Championships, where the team finished sixth for the second straight year. In his 14th year, Woodhead qualified Duncan for the NCAA Championships in the shot put and weight throw. The Bobcats are ranked 25th in the nation.