Ted Mecham, BYU's promising young distance runner, rallied to a second-place finish in the 3,000-meter steeplechase Friday evening at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.
Mecham clocked a personal record of 8:38.74, which left him well behind Oregon State's Karl Van Calcar, who clocked 8:32.35. Weber State's Darin Williams, a senior from Ogden, finished sixth with a personal-record time of 8:43.51.For Mecham, a sophomore from Spokane, it was an especially impressive performance considering that Friday's NCAA final was only the eighth steeplechase race of his life. He tried the event for the first time only last March.
"I used to think of myself as a miler and half-miler," said Mecham after Friday's race. "I guess I'm a distance runner from here on out."
Van Calcar, a senior and the pre-race favorite, took control of the race from the start, while Mecham ran dead last in the 12-man field. "I wanted to be sure no one beat me with a kick, because I don't have a great kick," said Van Calcar of his frontrunning tactics. Mecham was still running last and trailing Van Calcar by about 20 yards with three laps to go when "I decided I had better make my move. I was worried I wasn't going to get second." Mecham gradually passed everyone but Van Calcar, and with a half-lap to go found himself running a distant second. On the final turn, Arkansas' Rich Cooper began to press Mecham, who responded with a strong homestretch kick.
"This is kind of a dream come true," said Mecham. "But I hoped to win it, so that I could take that victory lap ( tradition at Hayward Field)."
Said Van Calcar, "I wanted a quicker time but the wind was tough."
For Oregon State, Van Calcar's victory could be the school's final NCAA track championship ever. OSU has decided to drop its track program after the season. "I'm happy to win the championship but I wish this wasn't the end of the OSU track program," said Van Calcar.