EUGENE, Oregon — In his final race for Villanova, Ben Malone finished just 0.58 seconds from advancing to the finals of the 1,500-meter run at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships. He finished sixth in the preliminary round in 3 minutes, 50.61 seconds.
Coming around the final curve, Malone realized that he had a gap to close if he wanted to advance.
“I was just trying to dig as hard as I could,” Malone said. “I think they just had that extra 10 meters on me with 200 to go, and it was just too much for me to make up.”
Malone’s run Wednesday mirrored his performance from last year’s championships, when he also did not qualify for the finals.
The redshirt senior, who was the top qualifier out of the east preliminaries in Tampa, knew from the starting gun that the race would go out slow. But that did not deter him.
“I liked my chances with the tactical race,” Malone said. “I did well in Tampa with that, but I made a big error, and I didn’t go with the pack when they went. It’s really disappointing.”
Also competing on Wednesday was Clemson junior and Cheltenham High School graduate John Lewis. He finished sixth in his heat of the 800 in 1:49.90. Also in the 800, Anthony Hawthorne of La Salle did not qualify, running a time of 1:50.93.
“I felt pretty good, but I just didn’t get out hard enough,” Lewis said. “I got stuck in the back, and I couldn’t make my way up.”
Similar to Malone, Lewis also repeated history, failing to advance past the prelims for the second straight year.
The Wyncote native is a seven-time Pennsylvania high school state champion. His high school personal best of 1:48.33 in the 800 still puts him 18th on the high school all-time list, according to MileSplit.
Despite their disappointing performances, both Lewis and Malone said they are looking forward to future races.
Lewis said he has learned a lot in two consecutive trips to the national meet and hopes to put things together in his senior season.
“I just have to figure out my racing and put everything together,” he said.
Even though his career for Villanova is over, Malone is only 4.38 seconds from qualifying for the U.S. Championships in the 1,500 and did not rule out trying to chase the mark.
“I’m not done,” he said. “There’s more to come.”