(Naperville, Ill.) - Texas Lutheran junior Marquis Brown claimed the 11th national championship in school history Saturday when he won the NCAA Division III Men's Indoor National Championship for the 400 meters.
Brown, running in his first NCAA Division III national final, posted a time of 48.62 seconds to edge freshman A.J. Digby of Mount Union by .02 to win the national crown. Brown and Digby were the top two qualifiers for the 400 final after Friday's preliminary rounds. The national indoor championships were contested at North Central College's Al B. Carius Track in Naperville, Ill.
"I'm still in shock," said Brown. "I basically went to 'Plan B' because (Digby) went out faster than expected. I'm just glad that I relaxed and was able to pass him at the end."
Unlike Friday's preliminary heat between Digby and Brown, Digby was able to grab the inside position as the runners broke from the cones to the inside lanes. Digby is a double-amputee and the former national high school paralympic athlete of the year.
Brown made the pass of Digby down the final straightaway and leaned at the line to capture TLU's first men's track and field national championship of any kind. (TLU has three NCAA Division III national titles in women's track and field.)
"I'm not surprised that I won because I put in the work to win," said Brown. "I've honestly lifted and worked harder than ever this semester, and it paid off. I've just been thanking God for the last hour for this blessing."
TLU's indoor and outdoor track and field programs are in their third year of a re-start following a program hiatus of more than 30 years. Brown is part of the first recruiting class since the program's rebirth.
Digby and Brown were in the second section of the 400 finals. The top four of eight qualifiers for the final raced in the second section. The slower four raced in the first.
Three of the top four times Saturday came in the second section.
"Marquis was trying to get the lead at the break," said Darlene Holland, TLU's head coach for men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and field. "But the Mount Union guy ran a really fast first part of the race and beat him to the break. Marquis kept his cool and stuck to the 'Plan B' scenario and moved up on the leader with the intention to come off the last turn hard and fast and go for the line as fast and efficiently as he could."
"He ran it exactly as he needed to do in order to win. I really can't believe it happened. We are so excited for him. Nobody works harder than him, and it's exactly that work that paid off."
Brown's national title is the first TLU national crown since Brianna Aiken won the long jump at the NCAA Division III Women's Outdoor Track & Field Championship in 2010.
Brown's win is 10 years and one day since TLU's first NCAA Division III national championship. The Bulldogs' women's 4x400 relay team of Taffey Gray, Staci Jackson, Ashley Williams and Casey Toombs won the indoor national title on March 10, 2007 at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind.
TLU now has four NCAA Division III track and field championships, three NAIA individual golf titles, two NAIA women's volleyball championships, and two NAIA football titles in its history.
Brown's victory is the 34th national championship for a Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference student-athlete. Brown is the two-time SCAC Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year. He was named an NCAA Division III Indoor All-South/Southeast Region selection earlier this week.
By winning the national title, and by finishing in the top eight, Brown claimed his first All-America honor. He is the 101st All-American in TLU's NCAA Division III history, which officially began in the 2002-03 academic year.