Sam Graham ~ Guest Writer
The team will send six runners to the meet, highlighted by the third-ranked men’s distance medley relay
The University of Lynchburg indoor track and field team is preparing to travel to Birmingham, Ala. to compete in this weekend’s NCAA Division III National Championships.
While the team will send a total of six athletes to compete at the meet, many eyes will be focused on the men’s distance medley relay, composed of Frank Csorba, Jacob Hodnett, Tor Hotung-Davidsen and Sam Llaneza.
The relay enters the meet ranked third in Division III, setting up a legitimate opportunity for the team to chase the first track national title in school history.
“Our relay is so well-rounded,” said Hotung-Davidsen, who has already secured two All-American titles in the 800-meter run in his career. “The firepower is there, the chemistry is there, now we’re just waiting to toe the line.”
The distance medley relay is an event in which four runners compete in four different distances, laid out in the following order: the 1,200-meter, the 400, the 800 and the 1,600.
For Lynchburg, Csorba will lead off the event, followed by Hodnett, Hotung-Davidsen, and Llaneza.
After winning the event at the Old Dominion Athletic Conference championship meet, the team traveled to Tufts University, where they finished second, running nine minutes, 49.8 seconds.
That effort improved upon a school record set earlier this season at the Boston University David Hemery Valentine Invite, in which Lynchburg finished in 9:53.93, taking tenth in a field comprising Division I, II and III programs.
Hodnett joined the relay roster for the first time in the national qualifying race at Tufts, cementing himself into a 400-meter role that has been filled by three different athletes this season.
“After the indoor ODAC championship, the coaches told me I would be going to Tufts University to run the distance medley relay to try and qualify it for nationals,” said Hodnett, a sophomore and the youngest runner on the relay. “When we ran it at Tufts, we all knew it was a good relay and that it would qualify us for nationals, but I did not realize at first just how fast we had run.”
The group put up the second-fastest time in Division III history on a flat 200-meter track.
Flat tracks are typically slower than banked indoor tracks or outdoor 400-meter tracks, namely due to their tight turns and shorter straightaways.
While Hodnett will be making his first trip to nationals, the other three have become seasoned veterans at the meet, each already holding at least one All-American trophy.
Hotung-Davidsen, a back-to-back All-American in the 800-meter in both last year’s indoor and outdoor national championships, will look to rise above that level and claim an individual national title as he will step to the line as the second-seeded runner in the 800 field.
Caption: Hotung-Davidsen races the 4×400-meter relay at February’s indoor track and field ODAC championship. He won three conference championships at the meet.
“The 800 field is looking competitive this year without a doubt,” said Hotung-Davidsen, who holds the Lynchburg school record in the indoor 800, running 1:49.17 earlier in the year. “Winning an individual title would mean more than the world to me, it has been an objective and an aspiration for years now.”
The junior mid-distance standout will face a tough task in his attempt at winning two national championships, as he will race the prelim of the 800 just a little over two hours before the DMR is set to begin.
“I don’t think that this double is going to affect me too badly,” said Hotung-Davidsen. “Obviously having these two races within a certain time frame affects the body, but Jake [Reed] has put us in the best shape of our lives, and the fitness is there.”
Alongside his teammate, Csorba will also be tasked with racing multiple times in this weekend’s championships, competing in the DMR on Friday night before returning on Saturday to compete in the 3,000-meter.
However pulling off the double at nationals may be easier than what the senior distance runner was tasked with at Tufts last weekend, as he came back from the DMR to run a career-best 8:17.31 in the 3,000, earning himself a trip to the NCAA Championship in that event as well.
“I was only entered into [the 3,000] as a last resort on the odd chance something went wrong in the DMR,” Csorba said. “After we got in with the DMR we talked about it and agreed to give it a shot with the condition that if I fell off the pace I would drop out.”
Only Csorba never fell off the pace. Not only did he qualify for the national championship, he won the race, securing his first trip to a track national championship since he finished as an All-American in the 10,000 at the 2021 outdoor Division III championship.
Caption: Csorba competes in the mile at a Lynchburg track and field home meet. He will make his second national championship appearance in track at this weekend’s meet. (Photo Credit: lynchburgsports.com)
“It was definitely a day I will remember for a while,” he said. “It was a great van ride home.”
Since that 2021 championship, a string of injuries and bad luck have kept Csorba out of several postseason opportunities. But that makes the opportunities he and his teammates have ahead of him that much more meaningful.
“Going into this weekend with a real shot to winning the DMR is something that if you would have told me a month ago I would have thought you were crazy,” said Csorba. “I’m all in on trying to win my leg of the race and giving the boys as big of a lead as possible. I will focus on the 3k when the job is done and we have won a national title.”
For these two and their teammates, the team comes first.
Llaneza, a three-time All-American in track, qualified for the 1,500 at this weekend’s championship, but scratched his name from the event, choosing to go “all in” on the DMR title instead.
Head Coach Jake Reed, alongside the Lynchburg athletic department, extended the offer to cover multiple non-qualifying athletes traveling to Birmingham to support their teammates.
“We have a legitimate chance to see our program claim two national titles this weekend,” said the eighth-year coach. “I want our athletes to be able to experience that with their teammates.”
Smith will run the 800, qualifying for the national championship as a true freshman while Seward will compete in both the triple jump and the 60-meter hurdles.
The full schedule of Lynchburg events will be listed below. More information and results can be found at lynchburgsports.com.
Friday, March 10:
Women’s 60-meter hurdle preliminary, 1:45 p.m. – Seward
Men’s 800-meter preliminary, 3:45 p.m. – Hotung-Davidsen
Women’s 800-meter preliminary, 4 p.m. – Smith
Men’s distance medley relay final, 6:10 p.m. – Csorba, Hodnett, Hotung-Davidsen, Llaneza
Saturday, March 11:
Women’s 60-meter hurdle final – Seward (If qualified)
Women’s triple jump, 11 a.m. – Seward
Men’s 800-meter final, 3:50 p.m. – Hotung-Davidsen (If qualified)
Women’s 800-meter final, 4 p.m. – Smith (If qualified)
Men’s 3,000-meter final, 4:40 p.m. – Csorba