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Easter '03, Sawler '02 win NCAA track and field titles

Bates College junior Justin Easter of Jay, Maine, has produced the College’s second national champion in as many days, winning the 3,000-meter steeplechase today at the NCAA Division III track and field championships at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. Senior hammer thrower Jaime Sawler of Stratham, N.H., won his second career national championship on Thursday, capturing the hammer throw.

Easter, the top seed in the steeplechase headed into the national championships, won the race with a time of 9:02.02. He defeated second-place finisher Ryan Reed of Pacific Lutheran College by just over three-tenths of a second. Easter jumped out to an early lead during the first lap, then fell back into the pack for the next three laps. With about a mile to go, he returned to the front of the pack, stretching his lead to about 15 meters. Easter held off a hard-charging Reed to earn his first national championship. He had finished seventh and third in his previous NCAA steeplechase races in 2000 and 2001.

Sawler, the top seed in the hammer entering the meet, won Thursday’s competition with a throw of 188 feet, six inches. He defeated runner-up Justin Minor of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater by seven-and-a-half feet.

Sawler completed the 2002 season undefeated against Division III competition, also winning the 35-pound weight during the indoor track and field season. Sawler is the third athlete in Bates history to win multiple NCAA titles. He joins Wayne Pangburn (class of 1966), who won the NCAA College Division championships in the hammer in 1965 and 1966, and John Fitzgerald (class of 1987), who won the indoor 5,000-meters in 1986 and the outdoor 10,000-meters in 1987.

Bates has now won 12 individual national track and field titles all time. Easter’s is the eighth outdoors and the fourth under current head coach Al Fereshetian. He is the first Bobcat runner to win a national title since Fitzgerald’s in the 10,000. Bates’ previous four titles were won by field athletes, including Sawler’s two.

Behind the two championship performances, Bates scored 20 points, the most-ever by a Bobcat team. They were eighth overall and second among New England teams. The University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse won the meet with 64 points, while Wheaton College was the top New England team in fifth place with 29 points. The eighth-place finish was also the school’s best-ever finish at the NCAA outdoor track championships and matches the second-highest in any championship. The 1977 men’s cross country team’s sixth place is the college’s standard as a member of Division III, while the 1996 women’s soccer team also finished in a tie for eighth.

Junior Kelley Puglisi of Scotia, N.Y., earned her first career All-America honor May 25 by finishing third in the 1,500-meter run. Puglisi, who entered the NCAA championships as the 11th seed, finished third with a school-record time of 4:37.92. She broke her own record, set at the New England Division III championships on May 7, by nine-hundredths of a second. Puglisi was the top finisher from New England in the event. She placed seven seconds behind champion Missy Buttry of Wartburg (Iowa) College. Puglisi is the fifth woman in Bates outdoor track and field history to earn All-America honors and the first in the 1,500-meter run. Her third-place finish was the highest by a Bobcat woman at the championships since Heather Bumps (class of 1997) placed third in the javelin in 1996.

The six points scored by Puglisi helped the Bobcats to a six-way tie for 38th place. The finish was the highest for the Bates women since 1996, when they finished in 37th place.

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