Brunnette places fourth in steeplechase to complete banner year
LA CROSSE, Wis. – Junior Sam Brunnette (Newport Center, Vt.) capped off an unbelievable year with a fourth place finish in the 3,000 meter steeplechase to capture All-America honors at the 2018 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse on Saturday afternoon.
Brunnette crossed the finish line in 9:14.23, just 0.12 seconds shy of a top-three performance. As he did in the preliminaries on Thursday, Brunnette sat back at the end of the pack before making a strong push in the middle to late stages of the race. He moved into 11th with three laps remaining, then made a move to the inside to climb into the seventh spot. In the closing lap he made a final push to reach the top four.
Brunnette was the top New England finisher, edging out junior Scott Mason of Connecticut College by 0.63 seconds. Mason finished fifth. Junior Aidan Gilson of MIT was the third competitor from New England. He grabbed the final All-American spot, finishing eighth in 9:16.04. Senior Mark Fairley of Central College was the national champion with a time of 9:04.50.
"Sam's performance was a masterpiece of patience and racing courage," said fourth-year head coach John Ostler. "Very few of even the best racers can marry the discipline it takes to go out at the back of the pack early on to the aggressiveness to attack and make passes in the painful middle and late stages of the 3,000 steeple."
It has been an incredible run for Brunnette, who also achieved All-America status at the 2017 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships in November and again in the 3,000 meter run at the 2018 NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships in March. He is the first Plymouth State athlete to earn the distinction in all three seasons in a single school year.
He started the year as the Little East Conference (LEC) and New England Regional cross country champion, before grabbing the program's first All-America honor with a 25th place finish at the National Championship.
During the indoor track and field season he earned Little East titles in the mile run and 3,000 meter run ahead of a third place finish in the mile at the New England championships and an eighth place, All-America finish in the 3,000 meters at NCAAs.
He closed out his junior year with a pair of LEC titles at the outdoor track and field conference championships, winning the 3,000 meter steeplechase in record-setting form while running the second leg of the winning 4x800 meter relay team that also set a new LEC mark. He was the New England champion in the 5,000 meters and is now an All-American for the third time in just over six months.
"Sam's year has been historic," added Ostler in closing. "As one of the very few people in the country who have been able to achieve All-American status in all three seasons, he cements his status as one of the best athletes in the country. It's astonishing to think how prepared he needed to be over such a long time and seize the fleeting opportunities when they were presented."
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