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Dotson fifth in decathlon, Alexander qualifies for 5K final

GULF SHORES, Ala. — Decathlete Joseph Dotson's rapid progression throughout the season was typical of a freshman. His clutch performance on the big stage of the NAIA Outdoor Track & Field Championships was not.

On the second day of the national meet Friday at Blackwell Stadium, Dotson spent the afternoon climbing up the standings before ultimately stealing fifth place with 6,486 points — a new personal best and a far cry from the 5,770 he posted two months ago in his first collegiate try. The Siuslaw High product became just the fourth freshman to place among the NAIA's top-five decathletes in the last 10 years and Southern Oregon University's first male freshman All-American since pole-vaulters Robbie Johnston and Ryan Mussleman in 2005.

In Friday's other action, defending 5,000-meter champion Dylan Alexander got out of the 5K preliminary round, setting the Raiders up for six finals today, and freshman Zach Beltz placed 22nd in the long jump.

Dotson was in 10th place with 3,218 points after Thursday's first five disciplines and dropped to 11th after Friday's first event, the 110-meter hurdles, despite a personal best of 16.08 seconds. He jumped three spots thanks to a 14-foot PR in the discus (126 feet, 3 ½ inches) and remained in eighth place going into the final discipline, the 1,500 meters. In that race, he finished in 4:33.84 — six seconds better than his previous best and good enough for second place to jump three more competitors.

Dotson finished 22 points ahead of sixth-place Justin Castellanos and 177 behind fourth-place Seth Gretz, who won the Cascade Conference Championships when Dotson registered eight PRs to come in second at 6,408. He totaled six new PRs at the national meet. Doane College (Neb.)'s Kale Wolken won with a new meet record of 7,830 points.

Alexander, a senior from Encino, Calif., had the fourth-fastest time (15:05.32) in a strategic, energy-conserving 5K trial. William Carey University (Miss.) sophomore Geoffrey Kipchumba — the top seed, a two-time 10K champ as of Thursday and the runner whom Alexander passed just before the finish line for last year's title — had the top qualifying time of 15:04.74. They'll be among 16 runners in the meet's last race Saturday at 3:55 p.m.

Beltz, who won the CCC long jump title two weeks ago, capped his eye-opening season with a mark of 22-1 ½. He entered the meet as the No. 8 seed with a mark of 24-1 ½, the second-best in school history.