The 1997 men’s soccer team and the 1972 men’s track & field team were inducted into the Truman State University Athletics Hall of Fame in April.
1997 Men’s Soccer (16-6 – NCAA Final Four)
The Bulldog men’s soccer team in 1997 advanced to the NCAA Final Four after winning their fourth-straight Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association title and sixth overall. Dennis Sweeney’s team went 14-5 during the regular season and was selected to their fourth NCAA Division II tournament in the past seven years.
Round one was a match again rival Southern Illinois Edwardsville in frigid conditions. The Cougars struck three minutes into the match to take the early lead. Senior Jimmy Duran deflected a shot off the post from Adrian Marrero for the equalizer. Late in the match, Marrero scored the winner off a pass from Jeremy Jackson to give Truman their first postseason victory.
The Bulldogs returned home and faced East Stroudsburg (Pa.) University with a ticket to the Final Four on the line. It was Marrero again getting the lone goal as his header off a corner kick in the 14th minute stood up for the win.
Truman traveled to Boca Raton, Florida, for the Final Four and faced California State-Bakersfield in the national semifinals. The Roadrunners scored a first-half goal off a corner kick. The Bulldogs thought they tied the match early in the second half but Duran’s goal was waved off due to a foul. Bakersfield would score with 20 minutes left to seal the victory. They would eventually win the national title two days later.
Marrero finished with a team-high 15 goals. He was one of six Bulldogs to earn first-team All-MIAA honors along with Matt Berry, Mike Quante, Heine Andersen, Lee Letourneau and MIAA Most Valuable Player Steve Wilhuesen. Scott Meis, second team, and Duran, honorable mention, were also listed for the Bulldogs.
Andersen, Marrero and Quante were all named to the NSCAA All-Region team, Andersen was a first-team selection.
1972 Men’s Track & Field Team
Fifty years ago this spring was a magical time for Coach Kenny Gardner’s Bulldogs and the 1972 track & field team.
Before the indoor MIAA Championship meet in Columbia, Larry Jones captured the NCAA indoor title in the 440-yard dash held in Detroit, Michigan, March 12.
A week later in historic Brewer Fieldhouse on the campus of the University of Missouri, the Bulldogs dethroned the defending MIAA indoor champion, Southeast Missouri State, by scoring 71 points to claim the conference championship. It was the 12th MIAA title in the previous 14 years for the Bulldogs. The team had six first-place finishes and placed in all but two of the 14 events.
Moving outside, the team opened with events at Eastern Illinois, duals with Central Missouri, Northwest Missouri and Western Illinois and competed in the Kansas Relays. On May 12-13, the MIAA outdoor championships took place in Springfield, Missouri, and the team took six first-place trophies and collected 76 points. Tom Geredine, Don Allbritton and Larry Jones each won two MIAA individual titles apiece.
Ashland, Ohio, was the scene for the 1972 NCAA College Division Track & Field Championships. With more than 611 athletes representing 115 schools, the Bulldogs earned the highest team finish in school history.
The University had three national champions — Allbritton in the decathlon, Geredine in the triple jump and Jones in the 440. Allbritton earned 22 points during the meet with a three-way tie for second in the high jump and third in the pole vault. Geredine earned All-American honors in the long jump with a sixth-place finish. Jones set a new NCAA record with a time of 45.8 in the event.
Joining Jones in the mile relay to earn All-American honors was Wayne Ventling, Bob Gonzales and Rob Nelson.
Dennis Littrell matched Allbritton’s height in the pole vault at 6 foot 8, but due to tiebreakers, earned All-America honors by placing sixth. Al Fulton and Linley Lipper also competed for the Bulldogs at the championships.
Eastern Michigan scored 93 points to win the team title and Norfolk College was second, only six points in front of the Bulldogs.
The season was not done yet. The following week the “Best in Show” moved west to Eugene, Oregon, for the 1972 NCAA University & College Track & Field Championships, now known as the Division I Championships.
Jones finished second, behind UCLA’s John Smith, in the 400-meter dash with a time of 45.1 to Smith’s 44.5. Allbritton earned the bronze medal in the decathlon.
Coach Gardner’s teams would win 34 MIAA championships and earn six, top-10 team finishes at the NCAA College/Division II meet during his career. He was one of the first inductees into the Truman Athletics Hall of Fame in 1983 and the track at Stokes Stadium bears his name after being dedicated to him in 1996.
Allbritton, Geredine, Jones, Lipper, Littrell and Ventling have all been inducted as individuals to the Truman Athletics Hall of Fame.