Messana Earns All-America Honors In 800 Meters

Messana Earns All-America Honors In 800 Meters

Delaware, Ohio - Freshman Paul Messana (pictured) earned All-America honors with an eighth-place finish at the NCAA Division III Men's Track and Field Championships at Ohio Wesleyan on Saturday. 

Messana entered the NCAA Championships with the 15th-best time in Division III, but far surpassed his seed with an eighth-place finish. Junior Ben Girodias also ran in the 10,000 meters on Thursday and exceeded his projections as well, finishing 12th overall after coming in seeded 20th. 

The drama for Messana was in the prelims on Friday, when the field was whittled down from 20 runners to eight for Saturday's finals. The runners were divided into three heats, with the top two from each heat automatically advancing and the top two remaining times also moving into the finals. 

Messana was in the first heat and was in last out of the six runners with 200 meters to go. However, he closed on a tremendous kick and passed three of the runners in front of him to finish in 1:50.92, the second-best time in program history (behind only USA National Team runner Will Leer), and just one-hundredth of a second in front of Thomas Vandenberg (Carnegie Mellon), who he passed right at the finish line. 

The second heat saw much slower times, as both Messana and Vandenberg were in position to qualify for the final two spots, but the third heat saw three runners eclipse Messana's time, which meant that the .01 separating Messana and Vandenberg was the difference in finals qualification (even though Messana had the sixth fastest time in prelims and Vandenberg seventh).

By qualifying for the finals, Messana was assured of earning All-America status as one of the top eight (barring a disqualification for a false start or other violation). His gallant push to the finish in the prelims left him with less in the tank for Saturday's finals, when his time slowed down to a 1:54.58, but he still earned his way onto the All-America podium in his first trip to nationals. 

The only senior in the field (Andrew Carey of Johns Hopkins) won the 800-meter title with a time of 1:50.62, but six of the other seven finalists were freshmen and sophomores, which will make for a strong field in 2015. 

Girodias, meanwhile, will be back for cross country season in the fall after finishing fourth in the NCAA West Region last season to help the Sagehens to a regional championship, their first since 1982. Messana will also run cross country in the fall, after ending the year as an alternate for the NCAA Regionals and nationals.