Will Daniels carried a different weight into the NCAA Division III Men's Track and Field Indoor National Championships.
Will Daniels carried a different weight into the NCAA Division III Men’s Track and Field Indoor National Championships.
He had to face the weight of expectation.
The defending national champion and NCAA heptathlon record holder, Central College’s Daniels had to compartmentalize the pressure of being the favorite this season.
“Having already won it once put a lot more pressure on me knowing the expectation was to win again,” Daniels said. “Last year, the expectation was to place and do as well as I could.”
One of the defining things about Daniels’ track career is that he turns expectation into a reality.
A 2016 Geneseo graduate, Daniels ran a season-best time of 2:53.53 in the 1,000-meter run to repeat as the heptathlon national champion.
Daniels believes his training leading up to nationals allowed him to just compete and not overthink things at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Boston, Mass., on March 9.
“It takes the pressure off knowing I’ve been working in practice and honing all the little details,” Daniels said. “Being able to do that means I don’t have to think about them on meet day. The preparation with Coach (Jim) Fuller and preparation really paid off.”
A junior, Daniels becomes Central College’s second track athlete to earn back-to-back national titles since Ethan Miller was champion in the decathlon in 2011-12.
Daniels built a big lead on the first day of competition, but he was disappointed by his pole vault and 60 hurdles performances.
“I knew my lead was kind of slipping away at that point,” Daniels said. “At the same time, I knew I had a pretty good lead going into the 1,000. I was really happy to run a season best in the 1,000. That’s really what sealed the deal.”
Daniels’ winning total of 5,418 points fell just short of the national record he set at Wartburg of 5,441 points.
On the first day of competition, Daniels improved strength showed winning the shot put competition with a throw of 42’9.5”.
“It was huge for me to win in the shot put,” Daniels said. “It was really exciting. I haven’t won too many in shot put competition in multis before, and (Ryan Kruse) was a really good shot put thrower so I felt like he kind of passed the torch to me this year.”
Daniels was named the USTFCCCA Division III Central Region men’s field event athlete of the year for the second year in a row after he earned all-conference status in four events.
After a successful indoor season, Daniels plans to focus on improving in the discus to take a run at a national title in the decathlon.
An All-American in the decathlon, Daniels finished third at nationals during outdoor season last year.