By Sports Editor Dylan Botehlo.
UMass Dartmouth senior Joao Baptista and junior George Papoulis recently competed for their individual national titles at the 2019 NCAA Division III Men’s Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Baptista competed in the high jump, while Papoulis competed in the 800 meters at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury, Mass.
Papoulis was the star of the day, finishing as runner up in the 800 meters. Prior to the Championships, George earned his seventh Little East Conference title by setting a facility record at Plymouth State and found himself seeded eighth for preliminary competitions.
With a posted time of 1:53.92, he finished second in his heat and sixth overall to advance to the 800-meter final on Saturday afternoon.
As for Baptista, he likewise competed in the preliminary rounds but unfortunately did not qualify for advancement to the finals. Papoulis headed into the Championships the next day seeking his second straight All-American honor, as well as an improvement on his fourth place finish and time of 1:52.79 from the year prior. To put it bluntly, he did not disappoint.
Papoulis set a new school record in the event, breaking Matt Hinthorne’s former record time of 1:51.64 with a run of 1:50.78. George was just barely bested by Wisconsin-Eau Claire junior Kyler Lueck, who took home the national title with his time of 1:49.60.
Competition was not close behind Papoulis either, as Southern Maine sophomore Zachariah Hoyle finished with a time of 1.51.17.
What is astonishing about Papoulis runner-up finish is that all three men who medaled in the competition managed to surpass the former time record in the event. Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s McKena Ramos posted an all-time record for the 800 meters in 2014 of 1:51.30, yet was beat cleanly by all three of this year’s competitors.
Papoulis was in fourth place heading into the bell lap but found some extra strides in his run to blow past SUNY-Geneseo’s Gillan Faulker and Southern Maine’s Hoyle to break second and take home the runner-up finish. George now holds both the school indoor and outdoor record in the 800 meters after these two back-to-back All-American finishes.
Only a junior, George’s Track and Field career has thus far been spectacular.
There’s only one way for him to go in next year’s competition, and that’s turning his runner-up finish to an even more dominant first place spot.
We will see if Papoulis can beat his own school records in next year’s competitions, I know I wouldn’t put it past him to do so.