Geneseo grad Will Daniels wins the DIII heptathlon national title.

Central College’s Will Daniels knew what he had accomplished, but it took a few minutes for the weight of the moment to sink in — he was a national champion.

A 2016 Geneseo graduate, Daniels held on in the heptathlon’s final event to earn a national title at the NCAA Division III Indoor Men’s Track and Field Championships, in Birmingham, Ala., on March 10.

With a 21 point lead going into the 1000-meter dash, Daniels caught up to Ohio Wesleyan University’s Nate Newman in the final lap to clinch the heptathlon crown.

“I was pretty tired at the moment,” Daniels said. “It took me 15 minutes to catch my breath and really think about it, but it was really cool. A lot of hard work went into the running this year and it was cool that it all paid off.”

Daniels started his sophomore season with a bang posting the best heptathlon score in DIII with a 5,010 score at Doane College, back in December.

Feeling a little bit of pressure at the outset of the indoor championships, Daniels decided to focus on just setting new personal bests in each event and not worry about placement.

“I was just trying to focus on giving my best effort and keeping a good attitude through it,” Daniels said.

And the PRs just kept coming.

Daniels led off nationals with a PR in the 60 dash (6.97) to win the event and run down the second fastest time in Central College history. He added another personal best winning the heptathlon high jump clearing 6’11” which notched him the third-best mark in school history.

Daniels earned All-American status in the high jump finishing seventh with a mark of 6’9”.

Daniels finished with the second-best heptathlon score in Dutch men’s track history (5287), and he became the 33rd individual national champion in school history.

Central College teammate Ryan Kruse finished third in the heptathlon with a score of 5124, and the Dutch heptathlon duo combined to score enough points to finish ninth in the team standings.

Daniels said having a strong relationship with associate head coach Jim Fuller and a teammate like Kruse has elevated him to this status.

Daniels and Kruse can share experiences, rely on each other for advice and continue to push each other to new heights.

“We get excited for each other as much as we do for ourselves,” Daniels said. “It’s definitely competitive in practice and meets. We push each other a lot, but we never view the other as competition.”

Next, Daniels will shift his focus to the outdoor track season where he will compete in the decathlon.

“The decathlon is a little tougher for me than the heptathlon because of the additional throwing events,” Daniels said. “I’m going to try to work hard in the outdoor season and hopefully make it back to nationals and see what we can do there.”