Gary Pepin can't recall a time in his 35 years as Husker track and field coach where four local athletes played such a pivotal role in a conference championship.
But Lincoln natives Levi Gipson, Moujtaba Mohammed, Christian Sanderfer and Caleb Cowling were in the middle of a charge Saturday in Geneva, Ohio, that led to Nebraska's first Big Ten Conference indoor championship.
"That's pretty special and unusual where you can have four homegrown boys from Lincoln, Nebraska, do that well in the Big Ten Championships," Pepin said by phone.
Behind depth in the field events, Nebraska tallied 127 points to claim its first conference men's title since a 2007 Big 12 title and second since joining the Big Ten (2013 outdoor). The Huskers had two individual winners — Oladapo Akinmoladun in the 60-meter hurdles and James White in the high jump. Illinois was the men's runner-up with 86 points.
The Nebraska women finished tied for fifth with 65 points.
Pepin said for the men to have the opportunity to win the title, they needed an overall team effort and couldn't rely on a couple top performers. And of the two winners, White's was especially rewarding.
Pepin said White, who won the 2013 league indoor high jump title, has been battling knee trouble for more than a year and a half and hadn't been able to train or compete much to start the season.
"That was a really pleasing to not just get the points, but to see a guy who we didn't know if he would come back and jump again do so well," Pepin said.
NU's Landon Bartel was second in the high jump and Grant Anderson seventh.
Of the Huskers' 127 points, the heptathlon and field events accounted for 65, led by the high jump (20), the pole vault (16) and the long jump (15).
Cowling (Pius X) was second in the long jump and Sanderfer (Southwest) was sixth in the pole vault. On the track, Gipson (Lincoln Christian) was third in the 600 and ran a leg on the second-place 1,600 relay, while Mohammed (North Star) was sixth in the 600.
Akinmoladun defended his indoor title with a time of 7.72 seconds, and teammate Sean Pille was third (:07.81).
"Sean and I talked about running a scoring race," Akinmoladun told Huskers.com. "Being able to score high was huge for the team race. I just wanted to make sure I gave it every single thing I have, and so I’m really happy that we were able to get a 1-3."
Ohio State won the women's title with 84 points. NU's Marusa Cernjul was second in the high jump, losing in a jump-off. Nebraska's Brittany Johnson finished second in the 200 and Shawnice Williams (600) and Ellie Ewere (triple jump) added third-place finishes. Reka Czuth was sixth in both the long and triple jumps.