Widzgowski earns All-American status at NCAA championshipsFormer Windjammer competes in 800 meters, mile at nationals
Lincoln, Neb. — Keene State College senior Ryan Widzgowski of Camden competed for two national championships on Saturday, March 15 after advancing to the finals of both the 800 meters and mile Friday, March 14 during the NCAA Division III Track and Field Championships at the University of Nebraska's Bob Devaney Center.
Running the mile preliminary less than three hours before the 800 meter prelim, Widzgowski finished third in his heat in 4:13.35, conserving energy for the 800-meter race. Back on the track, Widzgowski ran the 800 meters in 1:52.47, again qualifying third in his heat.
"Ryan ran well," said Keene State College head coach Peter Thomas. "He had a good burst in the mile to get third."
Regardless of how he finished Saturday, Widzgowski earned All-American honors for qualifying among the top eight in each event.
The finals for the mile and 800 meters were March 14, about two hours apart. In the finals, Widzgowski was second in the mile and sixth in the 800.
Widzgowski closed out the indoor portion of his college career with two All-America honors.
Widzgowski narrowly missed on becoming Keene State's 17th national champion when he finished second in the mile in 4:10.18. Bowdoin College's Coby Horowitz won the race in 4:08.40.
"It was a tight finish," said coach Thomas. "Horowitz was out in front quickly and went into cruise control. Ryan took the lead of the pack after 800 meters and just matched anyone that tried to go by."
The senior also picked up an All-America award in the 800 meters, placing sixth in 1:53.36. McKena Ramos of Wisconsin-Oshkosh took first in 1:51.30.
"Overall, it was a very good trip," said Thomas.
Widzgowski and the Owls will begin the outdoor track-and-field season on March 29 at the Mount Holyoke Spring Fling.
Widzgowski certainly tried to make the most of the weekend trip to his final indoor national championships.
Widzgowski and coach Thomas felt that way as they prepared for the national meet.
It is not only the first time the facility hosted the NCAA Division III Championships, but the first time the meet was held on a banked track.
Widzgowski, a Camden Hills Regional High School graduate and former standout Windjammer athlete, hoped to double his pleasure at the championship, earning All-America honors in the 800-meter and mile races.
He did that.
“The thought is to get as many All-Americas as possible," Widzgowski said of running two races at nationals. "My training this winter has been really tough and I haven’t been able to do as much outside as I’d like, but I’m completely capable of running two events at nationals and I’m confident doing that."
“I’m good with it,” said Thomas. “We ran Ryan in a lot of doubles and triples this year, so he’s done it before.”
Widzgowski will race for the third and fourth All-Americas of his Owl career. He was a surprise second-place finisher in the mile at last year’s indoor championship and showed he was not a one-hit wonder by taking third in the 1,500 meters at the outdoor championships last spring.
Despite last season’s success, Thomas feels Widzgowski has made tremendous strides this year. “He’s faster, he’s stronger, and he’s more confident,” said Thomas about his standout senior.
However, earning a national title in the mile will not be easy. Seeded third in the mile with a time of 4:06.41, Widzgowski is now a known commodity in the competitive field and will not be able to use the surprise factor to his advantage. “I’m not going to sneak up on people this time around,” he said.
“I’m training hard and the sky’s the limit,” Widzgowski said of his chance to earn an elusive national title. “I’m trying to put myself in the right situation and adapt to any situation in a race. All season long I’m focusing in on nationals, to be in the best possible shape and situation.”
Widzgowski’s top competition will come from top seed Coby Horowitz, a senior from Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Horowitz and Widzgowski hooked up a couple of weeks ago in the mile at the open New England Championships with Horowitz winning the race with an NCAA Division III record time of 4:00.41.
Widzgowski earned a spot in the 800 race by posting a time of 1:50.81 at Tufts University’s last-chance meet. The fourth seed in the event, Widzgowski will have his work cut out for him in a race that got a lot more competitive when a couple of runners from Wisconsin-Oshkosh decided to enter the 800 as well as compete in the distance medley relay.
Although Widzgowski has the outdoor season to try to rack up more All-Americas on the track, he certainly has made the most of his last two seasons, qualifying for three NCAA track championships as well as the national cross-country meet last fall.
“Keene State has produced some very impressive runners over the years and I’m just trying to continue that run,” said Widzgowski, who set a school record in the 1,000 meters at last weekend’s ECAC Championship and has posted the program’s second fastest time from the 800 to the mile. "I’m very happy with what I’ve been able to achieve in a short time. It just motivates me to do the best that I can.”
“Ryan has really come on in the last two years. He’s been significant — just in a shorter window and not over a longer stretch of time,” said Thomas. “He’s been an elite runner, especially on the track.”
Widzgowski hopes to enjoy his final trip to the indoor nationals. “It’s my second one and last one so I don’t want to be nervous or scared,” he said. “Some people don’t get to experience this; others take it for granted. I just want to embrace every single moment and have fun.”
Information for this story was provided by Stuart Kaufman of Keene State College.