JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (May 11, 2007) - The ETSU men's and women's track and field team were led by a solid group of throwers after the first day of the 2007 Atlantic Sun Championship as freshman Zachlynn Blackburn (Tazewell, Va.) led the charge for the women, and another freshman, Jarrod Burton (Bastian, Va.), posted strong results for the men at the Liberty Bell Track Friday.
After five scored events the men currently trail Gardner-Webb for the team lead by 18 points. The Runnin' Bulldogs tallied 49 points, ETSU 31 and Belmont 29 on Friday. The women's race is much tighter as Gardner-Webb (34 points) leads ETSU and Jacksonville by one point.
"Overall this was a tremendous team effort on both sides and the results show in the team standings," said associate head coach Michelle Byrne. "We need to carry this momentum into tomorrow and we should be right where we need to as we chase for the title."
The morning started off solid for the Bucs as Nic Chernikow (Seymour, Tenn.) led the charge after the first five events of the decathlon. Chernikow and Gardner-Webb's Elliott Haynie battled all morning; however, the ETSU freshman show more of a fight as he won four of the five events on Friday and stands in first. The Seymour, Tenn. native racked up 3216 points and leads Haynie by 187 points. Jordan Briggs (Erwin, Tenn.) also put together a strong performance as he enters Saturday's final events in third, with 2796 points.
The ETSU women throwers bagged all 31 points on Friday and a lot had to do with Blackburn's performances in the hammer and discus. Blackburn continued her dominance in the hammer, setting a new school record with a heave of 151-02 (46.09m) and claimed the first of her two conference titles with the toss. Blackburn was not done showing off her skills as she also won gold in the discus, setting another personal best, with a throw of 128-11 (39.30m). Dedra Jones, another Tazewell, Va. native, provided scoring performances in the hammer and discus as well. Jones finished fourth in the hammer, posting a mark of 141-03 (43.05m) and sixth in the discus, with a toss of 114-06 (34.89m). Freshman Brooke Berarducci (Knoxville) had a memorable day in the discus, as she smashed her previous best mark by over 15 feet, and placed second with her heave of 123-01 (37.52m).
"Having Zachlynn win two conference championships today says everything about her performances," said ETSU throws coach Meg Stone. "I am very proud of how all three of them threw, because I have been challenging them for the past few weeks and they responded very well."
Senior Anna Marie Ricciardi (Canfield, Ohio) earned a spot in Saturday's finals of the 100-meter hurdles, qualifying with a career-best time of 15.23. Ricciardi will shoot for gold in the finals at 5:15 p.m.
Like the women, the men's throwers were solid as Burton claimed silver in the hammer. Burton's toss of 163-04 (49.79m) marked a lifetime best and helped keep the Bucs in contention with Gardner-Webb. The men's discus was also in action Friday; however, results were not final as they are still under review.
Junior Mike Wright (Chattanooga, Tenn.) gave his team a lift, totaling 12 points on day one. Wright finished third in both the long and high jump. The workhorse made his season debut in the long jump, finishing with a leap of 22-10 (6.96m). He also set a season best in the high jump, soaring 6-05 (1.95m). The Bucs were also backed by junior Shane Estes' (Maryville, Tenn.) fifth-place finish in the high jump (1.85m).
"Wright was tough in the long and high jump," added Byrne. "If the men are going to win the title he will be one many key contributors leading the team tomorrow."
Rounding out the action for ETSU on Friday was Michael Deren's (Blasdell, N.Y.) gutsy performance in the 10,000 meters. Deren made his season debut in the event, finishing fifth with a time of 32:42.69. Local hero Drew Beamer (Johnson City) and junior Dave Thomas (Maryville, Tenn.) scored in the pole vault. Beamer came away with a third place nod, tying his season-best of 14-07.25 (4.45m), while Thomas finished sixth with a mark of 14-01 (4.30m).
The men's and women's sprint trials were scratched on Friday, and will race the finals at their selected times Saturday.
Day two of the A-Sun Championships will get underway at 8 a.m. Saturday on the Liberty Bell Track as the men's decathlon kicks off the competition for the second straight day.