Staying on top

by | Jul 11, 2018 | Inside Mines, Summer 2018 | 0 comments

RMAC Triple Crown

Winning one RMAC championship? That’s a challenge. Winning two? Pretty tough. But to win three in the same year? It’s almost unheard of.

But that’s exactly what the Mines men’s cross country and track & field teams did this year, capturing the program’s first-ever RMAC “Triple Crown” of championships. Mines became the second school in conference history to win all three conference championship meets: the 2017 cross country race and both the 2018 indoor and outdoor track & field championships.

In cross country, Mines runners finished 1-2-6-8-9 to score 26 points and win by 54 points over Adams State; in indoor track & field, Mines set one of the largest winning margins in RMAC history with 151.5 points, beating second-place UCCS by 61. And in outdoor track & field, the Orediggers dominated again, scoring 201 points and beating UCCS by 93. The outdoor title was the first in Mines history. The Oredigger men went on to send 10 student-athletes to the NCAA Outdoor Championships, producing five all-Americans.

The Mines women’s cross country and outdoor track & field teams recorded their best-ever finishes at those respective championships, finishing second and third, sent five individuals to the NCAA Outdoors and produced three all-Americans, including freshman Gina Coleman’s fourth-place finish in the discus.

National Champion

Being the last man standing in the pole vault takes a lot of skill and perhaps just as much luck. No one knows that better than Jake Pinkston, who won the 2018 NCAA Division II pole vault national championship on May 26 in Charlotte, North Carolina. He tied his school record of 5.28 meters, but getting there was no easy feat.

Making his fourth appearance at an NCAA national meet, Pinkston needed some luck. At the 2017 and 2018 NCAA Indoor Track and Field meets, he had taken a dreaded “no height” by failing to clear his opening bar, putting him in last place. At the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field meet, he finished a respectable 10th but knew he could go higher. It all clicked at the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Championships. 

Going into the meet seeded second in the nation, Pinkston had to get past defending NCAA Indoor champion and conference foe Nolan Ellis of Colorado Mesa. The two had gone head-to-head at the 2018 RMAC Championships in April, and Pinkston came out on top at 5.28 meters. Now, facing the same height in the fifth round at nationals, it was down to Pinkston, Ellis and Grand Valley State’s Jacob Battani for the national title. All three men missed their first attempt, but Pinkston made no mistake on his second try. Both Ellis and Battani missed their second and third attempts, handing Pinkston Mines’ first NCAA individual title since 2011 and the first ever in a field event.

Baseball’s historic season

It was an unforgettable spring for Mines baseball as the program reached new heights.

The Orediggers made their second consecutive appearance in the RMAC Tournament final after finishing just a half-game out of the regular-season championship and made history by qualifying for the NCAA Championship for the first time ever. There, the Orediggers made plenty of noise in the South Central Regional, going 2-2 and finishing just shy of the College World Series.

The awards came pouring in after the season: All-America honors for catcher Mikey Gangwish and centerfielder Trevor Kehe, regional and RMAC player of the year honors for Gangwish and a national-best three Academic All-Americans in Gangwish, Kehe and Joe Popp. As a team, Mines broke or tied 15 different school records during the season, including wins (37), runs scored (465) and home runs (86).

Top of the leaderboard

In golf, when you get hot at just the right time, good things happen. And that’s exactly what George Markham did in April and May, going on a tear that ended with a pair of championships and an appearance at nationals.

It all started in late April, when Markham led the Orediggers to their first RMAC Championship since 2012. The Orediggers won by a single stroke over Regis University on a drama-packed final day, with a pair of late birdies by Tim Amundson helping pave the way. Markham was the individual star, finishing second on rounds of 67, 68 and 68, and he carried that momentum forward to the NCAA West/South Central Regional Championships in Amarillo, Texas, on May 7-9. After an opening-round 74, Markham charged up the leaderboard with back-to-back rounds of 67 to force a playoff for the individual championship, which he won on the second hole. He became only the second Oredigger to win an NCAA Regional championship.

That win earned Markham a coveted spot at the NCAA Division II Championship tournament in Alabama, and he didn’t disappoint there either, finishing tied for 20th in a field of the nation’s best golfers. The best news for Mines? Markham is only a junior, and the Orediggers will return four of their five starters next year, including all-RMAC picks Amundson and Nic Beno and RMAC Academic Golfer of the Year AJ Berry.

Becoming an Olympian

At the opening of the 2020 Summer Olympics, it will be 48 years since Mines produced an Olympian. But thanks to Seamus Millett, that streak could come to an end.

Millett, a junior studying civil engineering and member of the Mines swimming team, is one of the United States’ top young modern pentathletes. The Olympic event combines five different disciplines—swimming, cross country running, shooting, fencing and equestrian—representing the skills an ancient Greek warrior needed in battle. 

The modern pentathlon is in Millett’s blood. His mother, Jennifer Thurston, was a member of the U.S. national team in the 1980s, and Millett grew up riding horses and running, eventually taking up fencing in middle school and becoming one of the top youth pentathletes in the world. When it was time to choose a college, Millett knew he wanted to be able to continue in the sport. 

“I chose to come to Mines because of the academics and the career I was looking to pursue,” Millett said. “But I definitely did work hard to make sure I could still do pentathlon in college. That’s where swimming with the team comes in, and I made sure to find fencing and riding clubs in the Denver area.”

Millett’s training looks different from most student-athletes. He can often be found in the pool with the Mines swimming team practicing for the 200-meter freestyle event. Other times, he’s at a fencing club in Denver to train with an épée or for target practice with a laser gun. For riding, which consists of a show jumping course, Millett trains at an equestrian club in Parker, Colorado. He also follows a running plan created by USA Pentathlon.

At only 19 years old, Millett has plenty of time to qualify for the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020, Paris in 2024 or Los Angeles in 2028. To get there, he’ll have to be one of the top two ranked Americans and in the top 36 in the world or win an automatic berth through certain major events such as the Pan American Games. 

A five-time USA Youth Modern Pentathlon national champion, Millett is currently ranked second in the U.S. senior men’s rankings and finished 27th at last year’s Youth World Championships.

“You have to qualify internationally, and each country is only allowed two spots,” Millett said. “I need to get involved in some more international senior-level competition, the 21-and-over Olympic-level age group.” 

Millett is entered in the U.S. Nationals in San Antonio and the Junior World Championships in Prague. If all goes well, he hopes to attend the Senior World Championships this September in Mexico City and eventually the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru.

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