Bates places second in distance medley relay at NCAA Championships

From left to right, Vanessa Paolella, Amanda Kaufman, Elise Lambert and Ayden Eickhoff pose with their trophies for second place in the distance medley relay at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track & Field Championships at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, March 8, 2019. (Jay Hartshorn)

BOSTON -- Powered by a stunning anchor-leg performance by Ayden Eickhoff, the Bates women's track and field team placed second in the distance medley relay Friday night at the NCAA Division III Indoor Championships in team record time, for the best national finish by a relay team in Bates athletics history.

Eickhoff (Corvallis, Mont.) finished a spectacular day with her 1,600-meter anchor leg of the DMR -- running about three hours after she qualified for the 800-meter finals by running a season-best time of 2:11.80.

Eickhoff moved Bates' baton from seventh place at the start of her leg up to the front with about 800 meters to go. Division III mile champion Emily Bryson of Brandeis drafted behind Eickhoff and passed her on the final lap en route to a winning time of 11:40.64, but Eickhoff hung within three seconds at 11:43.51 and held off Kaitlyn Mooney of third-place Coast Guard (11:43.85). The former team record time of 11:44.72 was recorded in 2014 by Isabelle Unger, Claire Markonic, Sarah Fusco and Kallie Nixon.

With Bates competing in the DMR at NCAAs for the sixth time in eight years, sophomore Vanessa Paolella (Dingmans Ferry, Pa.) led off the Bobcats with a strong 1,200-meter leg, followed by sophomore Amanda Kaufman (Somers, Conn.) in the 400-meter leg, then first-year Elise Lambert (Amherst, N.H.) in the 800-meter leg, as the Bobcats maintained the seventh or eight position. All three athletes earn their first career All-America award, while Eickhoff accepts her fourth.

Eickhoff and senior Bates senior Katie Barker (Burlington, Vt.) will both compete again Saturday for Bates, after both advanced in Friday trials in the 800 and 3,000 meters, respectively.

Barker easily qualified for Saturday's finals of the 3,000-meter run, recording the fifth-fastest time out of 20 athletes in Friday's prelims.

With the top 12 between the two heats advancing to the finals, including the top four in each heat, Barker finished the second (and faster) of two heats in 9:54.70. The 12th and final qualifier's time was 9:59.95. Saturday's final is scheduled to run at 4:40pm. Barker will be trying to finish among the top eight in order to score team points and earn All-America honors.

Eickhoff recorded the fourth-fastest time in the 800-meter prelims, while needing a top-eight time out of a field of 20 to make Saturday's final. Her heat featured top seed Phoebe Aguiar of Macalester, who was a big front-runner throughout the race. Needing to finish in the top two in her heat to guarantee a spot in the final, Eickhoff was able to move up from fifth place to second over the final 200 meters. Her time of 2:11.80 is the second-fastest of her indoor career, trailing only her own team-record time of 2:11.47 from a year ago. She'll earn her fifth All-America honor in Saturday's 3:55pm final, and will score additional team points for the Bobcats.