By BILL WAGNERCAPITAL GAZETTE |FEB 06, 2022 AT 5:30 PM
Saturday was extremely successful — and quite glorious — for Navy athletics. It turns out it was also historic.
Navy swept archrival Army in four Star Series competitions over a span of about five hours. When all was said and done, the Midshipmen had clinched the 2021-22 Star Series earlier than ever before.
Navy athletics teams are now 13-1 against Army and the Midshipmen are assured of winning the annual series regardless of the outcome of remaining sports. Neither the Midshipmen nor Black Knights had clinched the series before completion of the winter sports.
“It’s really quite remarkable because normally the Star Series is not determined until sometime in April or May,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said. “We take great pride as an institution as being the top service academy athletic program. Obviously, beating Army is the driving force for all our athletes and coaches.”
Rifle, a co-ed sport, got things started by beating Army by 62 points at the Tronstrue Marksmanship Center in West Point. The 10th-ranked Midshipmen set four school records in knocking off the No. 14 Black Knights, 5,885 to 5,823.
In Annapolis, Navy indoor track and field got the job done at Wesley Brown Field House. Alex Rizzo broke his own facility record in the mile run and the Midshipmen men won 10 of 17 events en route to a 101-80 victory over the Black Knights. Senior captain Katie Halbert won the 60-meter hurdles and the long jump to lead the women to a 94-87 come-from-behind victory.
Freshman Isaiah Drake captured the all-around competition and Navy gymnastics won all five individual events in beating Army, 397.25 to 379.55, at Halsey Field House.
Gladchuk attended the track and field and gymnastics meets along with Vice Adm. Sean Buck, the Naval Academy superintendent. They came away impressed with the performance of the athletes and support provided by the Brigade of Midshipmen.
“The level of intensity, spirit, unit and teamwork among all our teams was simply extraordinary,” Gladchuk said. “It was a special day to see all our athletes come together with a tremendous determination to win.”
Saturday’s sweep got Navy off to a strong start in the winter portion of the Star Series. Men’s and women’s swimming and diving had previously swept the Star meet. Star games for men’s and women’s basketball will be held Saturday at West Point.
Navy dominated the fall sports — winning the Star in football, men’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country and sprint football.
Navy has only lost the Star Series twice in the last 51 years.
Rifle: Freshman Marleigh Duncan established a program record with a score of 1,188 points as Navy beat Army for the third time in the past four seasons. The Midshipmen established program records for total score, smallbore score and aggregate score based on the NCAA championship four-count scoring format.
Watson tied the program record with 592 points in smallbore then posted a score of 596 in air rifle in winning both events. She was presented the Josh Watson Memorial Trophy as most valuable player of the match.
Senior team captain Michael Zanti totaled 586 points in smallbore and 592 in air rifle to amass the second-highest total in the competition. Freshman Stephanie Milvain followed close behind with 1,176 total points.
Gymnastics: Drake took first place in the floor exercise, parallel bars and high bar to earn the all-around title with a score of 82.15. He placed second on pommel horse and vault and amassed the second-highest all-around score by a collegiate gymnast this season.
Navy’s individual event victories came from sophomore Ronan McQuillan on pommel horse, senior Josh Williams on rings, junior Connor Van Loo on vault and freshman Riley Rose on high bar.
Navy outscored Army in all six events, including commanding wins on pommel horse, rings and bars, in winning the Star meet for the fourth straight season.
Coach Kip Simons was thrilled by the support his team got at Halsey Field House, the new home to Navy gymnastics. A strong turnout from the Brigade of Midshipmen along with a large contingent of former Navy gymnasts turned out.
“The energy and hype in this building was unreal,” Simons said. “This is what we expected. This is why we do what we do Monday through Friday in practice. We want this moment, and we want to have dominant performances like today.”
Men’s Track & Field: The Midshipmen scored big in the field events by sweeping the high jump, long jump and triple jump. Cole Bailey won the high jump at a height of 6 feet, 8 inches, Caden Dailey captured the long jump at a distance of 23-5 and Jordan Payne took the triple jump at 48-3.
Walker Rudisaile won the pole vault by clearing 17-00.75 to further add to the field points.
Rizzo won the mile in 4:00.84 to set the pace in the distance events. Greyson Gravitt was victorious at 1,000 meters (2:25.80), while Miguel Mathias was the winner at 3,000 (8:04.71).
The Midshipmen also scored well in the sprints with Brahmir Vick taking first place in the 60-meter dash (7.97) and Jacques Guillaume doing the same in the 400 (47.85). Sethan Hollier finished second in the 60 and third in the 200.
Ashwin Briggs was the winner of the 800 (1:52.86) for Navy, which has now captured three straight indoor Star meets and eight of the last 10.
Women’s Track & Field: Halbert set a school record in winning the 60-meter hurdles in 8.56 seconds then led a one-two finish in the long jump with a winning distance of 19-5. Old Mill High graduate Breanna Mealer placed second for the Mids.
Trailing by 10 points midway through the meet, Navy took the lead by placing first and second in both the pole vault and high jump. Charlene Morke topped the pole vault (13-1 ½), while Molly Chapman won the high jump (5-8). Chapman also won the triple jump (39-2 ¼) as the Mids finished first and second in that field event as well.
Sabrina Sutter and Molly Mangan won the 200 and 400 with times of 24.71 and 56.16 seconds, respectively.
Ellie Abraham was the other Navy winner on the track, taking the 1,000 in 2:53.61. Abraham was also a member of the victorious 3,200-meter relay team.
Navy women’s indoor track and field has now won three straight Star meets.
Bill Wagner has worked for Capital Gazette Newspapers for 30 years. He served as beat writer for Navy athletics and general assignment sports reporter. He is also the sailing editor.