Eliezer is Bryan’s first-ever 400-meter All-American
GULF SHORES, Ala. – After punching his ticket to the 2018 67th Annual Men’s NAIA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Gulf Shores, Ala. with his performance at the Appalachian Athletic Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships at the end of April, there was no slowing down James Eliezer, the standout Bryan College sprinter, as he put his name in the Lion’s Track & Field record book with a stellar showing on the national stage. The Port-au-Prince, Haiti native is a great competitor in several events, but the 400-meter is where Eliezer soared passed the rest of the field.
At the AAC Championship race, Eliezer set a new personal best at 48.24 seconds, bettering his previous mark of 48.83 seconds. Even though the difference may seem miniscule, to a sprinter a half of second could determine placing fourth like Eliezer did at the conference meet or seventh where he would have landed if he had been a half of a second slower. Every second matters to sprinters, and that would ring true once again in Gulf Shores.
The multi-events kicked off the NAIA National Championships on Thursday, May 24, but it wasn’t until Friday that Eliezer took to the track in Mickey Blackwell Stadium for the first time of the weekend and what would end up being one of the most memorable races of his career. The only obstacle between Eliezer and the finals on Saturday were the semifinals consisting of three heats. Eight total contenders would advance with the top two in each preliminary heat moving on, as well as, the next two fastest times. The junior from Bryan was matched up with a pair of runners from the highly respected Wayland Baptist team who are previous national champions, a runner from this year’s national champions Wiley College, and a runner from fellow conference foes Union College and Montreat College in heat number one. In order to garner All-American status and race in the finals, Eliezer had to run the race of his life and ultimately post an extraordinary time. He entered the national championships with the 20th-best 400-meter time in the field, but that wouldn’t faze the Lion sprinter.
“He got out quick,” stated Bryan Head Cross Country/Track & Field Coach Josh Bradley. “Our goal was to attack the first turn and then stay calm, as calm as possible during a sprint, while we passed people. This put us in good position during the back stretch, giving us a brief moment to relax before really turning it up and hitting the last bit hard.”
The plan was perfectly executed by Eliezer as he ran through the line at a remarkable time of 47.78 seconds, marking a personal record for the Bryan sprinter. Despite finishing behind 2nd-place Demetrius Turner from Wayland Baptist with a time of 47.23 and winner of the heat Quintaveon Poole also from Wayland at 46.41, competing in the fastest heat played to his advantage as Eliezer paced his way to the 8th-best time of all the heats, securing him the All-American title and a spot to battle in the finals. As did most of the finalists, Eliezer went on to clock a slower time in the finals on Saturday for an 8th-place finish. The slower times could be blamed for the competitors having already raced for several days and some taking part in multiple events. Even though Saturday’s final race was exciting, giving way to Wiley’s Rajay Hamilton who was the overall 400-meter winner, Lion Track & Field history was made on Friday when Eliezer became not only Bryan’s first-ever 400-meter All-American but also the program’s first-ever sprinter to capture the All-American designation.
Coach Bradley said, “I am extremely proud of James and what he has accomplished. I am excited about our program and it’s future. We look to continue to build on both James and the program for further success. The event was right on the beach, but there was nothing that distracted James as he entered the weekend with all focus on the race. He worked all year for the moment and made the most of it by competing really well and finishing strong!”
The Wiley men’s team won its first-ever title in school history with a total of 92 points, followed by Indiana Tech with 62 and British Columbia who rounded out the top-three with 51 points accumulated. Conference rival Tennessee Wesleyan shined for the AAC at the championships with 18 total points to tie for 15th overall, marking the best finish in program history.