It had been almost a quarter century since the Big Red men's track and field team had a field athlete finish in the top-8 at a Division III national meet, and almost 40 years since someone did so in the triple jump. All that changed on Saturday afternoon in Winston-Salem, N.C. at the 2015 NCAA Indoor Championship when Denison junior and North Carolina native Wallace Branche placed seventh in the triple jump, earning his first-ever All-American medal.
Entering his final jump of the prelims, Branche knew he needed to improve on his mark of 45'11.75" if he wanted to secure a spot in the finals. With his final jump of the qualifying round, the Charlotte, N.C. native combined for a leap of 47'0.25" to finish the prelims with the sixth-best mark in the field of 15 athletes. In the finals, four of the nine jumpers improved on their top preliminary mark, but only one moved ahead of Branche who completed his first indoor national meet with a seventh-place finish.
The junior's All-American performance marked the first by a male DU field athlete since Terry Smith's eighth-place showing in the 1991 NCAA outdoor long jump. Additionally, Branche is the second male athlete in program history to earn All-American recognition in the triple jump. The other honor came when Denison Hall of Famer Ed Colley '76 captured the 1976 NCAA outdoor triple jump title. Branche is also just the second Big Red male athlete, and only male field athlete, to earn All-American honors at the NCAA Division III Indoor Championship. Dee Salukombo '12 was the first after finishing seventh in the mile in 2010 and third in the 5,000-meter run in 2012.
Reigning indoor national champion Jamie Ruginski of Southern Maine successfully defended his men's triple jump title with a mark of 49'00.25". The 2014 NCAA outdoor triple jump champion achieved that mark with his final jump of the finals. Bridgewater State senior Chris Perry finished second with a mark of 48'4.75", while sophomore Jerry Williams of Wisconsin-Stevens Point was third with a combined jump of 47'10". Wisconsin-Whitewater freshman Mike Cournia (47'6.25") placed fourth, while Christopher Newport's Dominique Torres (47'1.75"), Ramapo's Phillip Dowell (47'0.75"), Branche and Wisconsin-Eau Claire's Cody Prince (46'9") rounded out the All-American honorees.