Symmonds Breaks NCAA Division III Record for the 800 Meters

Nick SymmondsWillamette University Senior Runs One of Fastest Times in Nation this Year

Willamette University senior Nick Symmonds broke the NCAA Division III record for the 800 meters late Saturday as he ran a 1:47.34, winning the Tennessee Distance Running Solution race at Vanderbilt University.

Symmonds, a five-time Division III national champion in the 800 and 1500 meters, broke the record held by Clive Terrelonger of Lincoln College by .22 seconds. Terrelonger set the old record in 1991.

The winning time--along with breaking the record--firmly plants Symmonds in the top five in the nation for all runners in the 800 meters. Only two runners, Khadevis Robinson of Nike and Christian Smith from Kansas State, are ahead of Symmonds. Robinson ran the top two times this year, including a 1:44.98. Smith's best time is 1:47.11. Symmonds follows right behind with 1:47.34.

Running in a competitive field that included Jebreh Harris (#5 800m in US), Nike Farm Team member Sean O'Brien and two-time NCAA Division III 800 meter champion Matt Groose, Symmonds hit the bell lap in just over 52 seconds, tucked in behind several runners.

Sitting comfortably for the next 300 meters, Symmonds took the lead on the homestretch, setting a personal best by nearly 1.5 seconds, breaking his own Willamette University record and the NCAA Division III record.

Symmonds will attempt to defend his titles in the 1500 meters and 800 meters at the NCAA Division III Championships May 25-27 in Lisle, Ill. Earlier this year, Symmonds won the Northwest Conference Cross Country Championship.

Symmonds traveled to Tennessee hoping to qualify for the United States Track Association Championships, catching a 6 a.m. flight back to Oregon on Sunday to walk with his graduating class. Now his goal is to finish in the top three in the nation as he prepares for the 2007 World Championships and the 2008 Olympics.

"This may have been the best weekend of my life," Symmonds said. "It feels phenomenal to be a Division III runner ranked in the top 10 in the nation. I never thought I would have that chance going to a Division III school. But it's still early in the season, and this is going to help me stay motivated and focused."

The Tennessee Running Solution is a first-year meet. Meet Director Dave Milner said the 800 at the event was one of the fastest races run in the country this year.

"Nick ran an excellent race," Milner said. "He was the star of the show. He got boxed in as they were coming into the final 300 meters, but he didn't panic. When he saw his opening, he took it and out-kicked a very strong field to win the race.