Dillon Maggard had a decision to make.
Was the Utah State star distance runner going to compete as an individual in the 5,000-meter run at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships? Or, would he join forces with three of his teammates in the distance medley relay (DMR)?
It didn’t take long for the senior from Kirkland, Washington, to come to a resolution about which race he would be running in come this Friday night at the Gilliam Indoor Stadium in College Station, Texas.
“I chose the DMR because I couldn’t bear the thought of doing the 5k and leaving my teammates out to dry,” Maggard said. “I will only be able to race the DMR one more time as an Aggie, and to do it with my teammates is very special to me.”
Another factor Maggard had to consider when choosing which race to compete in was the 5,000 meters was starting just 40 minutes prior to the DMR.
A two-time indoor All-American in the mile, Maggard is currently ranked third nationally in the 5,000 meters with a school-record time of 13:40.59, set Feb. 9, at the Iowa State Classic in Ames, Iowa.
Maggard had a legitimate shot of capturing an individual title in the 5,000 meters, but he now has a shot to capture a team title in the DMR as that squad is currently ranked second in the nation behind Mountain West-rival New Mexico.
“I don’t think I have ever been more proud of Dillon than from this decision,” said interim head cross-country coach Artie Gulden. “To have him choose his team over himself is very admirable, but I also think it is a great illustration of what these guys have built in their team. They care about each other and sacrifice for each other, and since there is no distance relay during the outdoor season, this will probably be the last time they compete together.”
Gulden elaborated even further.
“Dillon is very selfless, but I also think this illustrates the high level of maturity he’s gained during his time in Logan,” Gulden said. “When he was making the decision, I suggested to him that he really only consider one thing: where is his heart and what would mean more to him, standing on the podium for the 5k or with his guys in the DMR?
“After that, I think the decision was easy for him. He has two NCAA trophies of his own so far, but getting one with his teammates would be very special for all of them.”
The NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships take place this weekend, March 9-10. Fellow seniors Jordan Beutler, Clay Lambourne and Brady Martin will be joining Maggard in College Station.
“I’m not surprised at all that Dillon chose his team over his own individual event,” said interim head track and field coach Matt Ingebritsen. “After watching him during the cross-country season, which is a very team-based sport, his fellow teammates mean a lot to him. It is really special for him to get to experience that kind of success with his teammates. Dillon talks softly, but he always speaks loudly with his actions. I am very proud of him for all he has done for this team and his teammates. He’s one of the best examples of what being an Aggie athlete is all about.”
The quartet of Beutler, Lambourne, Maggard and Martin will compete in the DMR on Friday at 7:45 p.m. MT. Then on Saturday, Lambourne is set to race in the 800-meter finals at 4:30 p.m., while Maggard will take part in the finals of the 3,000 meters at 5:10 p.m.
“I can’t fathom how hard of a decision that would be,” Beutler said of Maggard choosing to run in the DMR. “But, I can tell you that when he got back to our hotel room after running the DMR at the conference meet, he plopped on his bed and said, ‘There is no way I can go to nationals, race the 5k and be at peace with it, knowing that the boys are racing a relay 40 minutes later. If I’m not at peace with it, I won’t be able to race my best.’
“What that says to me is helping his teammates see greater success at the NCAAs is more important to him than chasing an individual podium finish. That, right there, paints the picture pretty well regarding what kind of teammate he has been over the years. He wants those around him to succeed just as much as he strives to find individual success. He’s putting the team first, which is pretty special.”
Utah State’s DMR team heads into the Indoor Championships riding a wave of momentum. The squad shattered the previous school record for the DMR at the MW Indoor Championships, finishing second behind New Mexico with a time of 9:34.61, nearly nine seconds ahead of the old standard. After an altitude adjustment, which is used to determine championship seeding, the time is the second-fastest in NCAA history.
“For me, personally, Dillon making that decision puts more weight on the race,” Beutler said. “People might think it’s silly and that we just go out and run circles, but when you step on the track knowing three of your friends are in this with you, there is just something special about that. And in the fact of Dillon sacrificing a shot at a personal goal as steep as the one he is bypassing, that gives me the goosebumps.”
Maggard garnered two all-Mountain West honors following the Indoor Championships, once in the DMR after the team placed second and once in the 5,000 after finishing in second with a time of 14:47.69.
Maggard also set the school record in the 3,000 meters earlier this year, crossing the finish line in 7:52.99 at the Washington Invitational in Seattle. He became the only Aggie to run it in less than eight minutes in school history and is currently ranked 15th in the nation in the event.
Come Saturday night, when the door on Maggard’s Utah State indoor career finally closes, he will leave behind a legacy that will be hard to replicate. Besides the three school records he has set this year, Maggard broke Shane Bingham’s mile record of 4:02.17 (set in 1998) during the 2017 season, finishing the race in 4:01.25.
Furthermore, Maggard owns the outdoor school records in the 1,500 meters (3:42.15) and 5,000 meters (13:41.17).
Maggard began his senior season of distance running by becoming the first Aggie to win multiple cross-country All-America honors when he placed sixth, the best finish ever for a Utah State runner, at the 2017 NCAA National Cross Country Championships with a time of 29:16.20.
Not only did he finish sixth at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, but Maggard helped Utah State qualify as a team for the first time in school history.
“These last couple of seasons have been great,” Maggard said. “Qualifying as a team for the first time in school history in cross-country, and now qualifying as a distance medley relay team, is incredible. The biggest thing that has contributed to my success is embracing running as a lifestyle — not staying up late, staying hydrated, running almost every single day and listening to coach Gulden.
“But honestly, Utah State has given me so many opportunities to be successful, ranging from the training table, training room, refueling station, access to tutors, beautiful running trails, high elevation and so forth. Everything I need to be successful is right here in Logan.”