ETSU men finish second behind Kennesaw State; Lady Bucs fourth at A-Sun Outdoor Track & Field Championships
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (May 15, 2010) - Senior Buccaneer sprinter Duronal Monal (Belle Glade, Fla.) used his emotions as momentum Saturday when the ETSU standout overcame a devastating week to capture the 100m and 200m titles at the 2010 Atlantic Sun Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hodges Stadium, located on the campus of North Florida.
Monal's mother, who survived the earthquake in Haiti this January passed away Wednesday in Florida, forcing Duronal to make the tough decision to meet the Bucs in Jacksonville and dedicate the championship to her. The Belle Glade, Fla. native capped off the long and draining week with championship performances in both the 100m and 200m. The Buccaneer sprinter began the competition by making history as his title in the 100m marked the third conference championship of his career - becoming the first athlete to accomplish the feat after turning in a time of 10.43. Following the 100m, Monal joined elite status as he joined fellow Buccaneer James Rainer to win at least two conference crowns in the 200m. Monal turned in a time of 21.12 to beat out Kennesaw State's Travis Benton (21.46).
Following the impressive performances, Monal was rewarded with Most Outstanding Track Performer honors at the post-race ceremonies.
"This week has been very difficult for me, but my family, teammates and coaches pulled me through it and helped me achieve my goals this weekend," commented Monal following the two-day meet. "At first I wasn't going to compete, but I knew my mother would want me to race this weekend. I went out there to run for her and I won these two titles for my mother. These two medals will definitely be buried with her next week."
"I can't say enough about Duronal and his efforts this weekend," said associate head track and field coach Michelle Byrne. "It was remarkable to witness all that he has accomplished this season after everything he has been forced to endure. He is a very strong competitor and to see the hard work pay off today is priceless."
Joining Monal with conference championship berths on the day were Jordan Briggs (Erwin, Tenn.), Ben Ronoh (Sotik, Kenya), Les Gilbert (Franklin, Tenn.), Ryan Beaver (Virginia Beach, Va.), and Kenneth Rotich (Nairobi, Kenya).
Despite the seven championship efforts by ETSU athletes, the Bucs were unable to overcome the strong attack from Kennesaw State. The Owls, who won the cross country and indoor track & field championships earlier in the year, put the finishing touches on the "Triple Crown" by outlasting the Blue and Gold - 269 to 228.
"We had a lot of highs and a lot of lows this weekend, but our guys competed very hard," said Byrne. "We had some things not go our way, but that is the nature of track and field. Some guys stepped up when opportunities were lost, but in the end, Kennesaw State did a better job and had momentum on its side."
The Bucs started the final day of competition off by earning 17 of the possible 38 points in the decathlon thanks to Jordan Briggs' monstrous comeback in the two-day event. Briggs, who entered the day in fifth and 245 points behind the leader, put together a record-breaking performance in the final five events to leapfrog Belmont's Matt Fielder and capture his first-ever conference crown. The Erwin, Tenn. native finished with a conference best 6237 points, which also broke Andrew Whitson's ETSU record of 6233 points, set back in 2001. Briggs catapulted his way to the top by setting a new conference record in the pole vault - recording a mark of 15-07 - while his third-place finish in the 110m hurdles also proved to be critical after bagging 799 points. Joining Briggs in the point column included, two-time conference champion Nic Chernikow (Seymour, Tenn.), and freshman Matt Hill (Signal Mountain, Tenn.). Chernikow earned four points, while Hill provided three after finishing fifth and sixth, respectively. Chernikow was hoping for a better finish, but after he posted a no height in the pole vault, the Seymour, Tenn. native had to settle for zero points in the event.
"Jordan's effort in the decathlon was solid as he set lifetime bests in nine of the ten events" said assistant coach Eli Sunquist. "Heading into the 1500m, I told Jordan he had to run a 30-second personal best. He came away with a gutsy effort to win the title and break two records. Jordan had phenomenal weekend. Despite a rough weekend, Nic still hung in like a team player to help keep pace with Jordan during the 1500m. The goal was for both to finish one-two, but sometimes things don't work out as planned."
Briggs and Hill continued to provide scoring efforts for the Bucs moments later, as the ETSU duo along with junior Mike James (Palm Bay, Fla.) combined to post 11 points in the high jump. James placed third after soaring 6-06 (1.98m), while Briggs and Hill finished sixth and seventh. Briggs took home three points and Hill tallied two in the event. Unfortunately, ETSU did little damage chipping away at Kennesaw State's lead, as the Owls went one-two in the event and led the Bucs - 88 to 76 after seven events.
ETSU wasted little time making a dent in its 12-point deficit as (Ben) Ronoh and J Penny (Jonesborough, Tenn.) finished first and third in the steeplechase. Ronoh won his second straight title in the event after clocking in at 9:32.05, while Penny gave the Blue and Gold six points after posting a time of 9:49.16 - moving the Bucs within four points of Kennesaw State - 96 to 92.
However, Kennesaw State responded to the Bucs' charge by extending its lead to 20 (118 to 98) after the Owls scored 14 points in the 1500m.
The see-saw battle remained in effect once the Bucs took the lead after their dominating performance in the javelin, but again the Owls weren't fazed and went back ahead, 151 to 137, following the 400m.
In the javelin, Gilbert, Jarrod Burton (Bastian, Va.) and Matt Baum (Middletown, Md.) provided the sweep in the event. Gilbert won the conference crown, while Burton finished second and Baum was third.
"I am exceptionally pleased with how the throwers rallied around each other and performed like a team," said assistant coach Meg Stone. "Despite not posting huge marks, this group really put some points on the board. Overall it was a good team effort."
After 16 events scored, ETSU trailed Kennesaw State by 27 points, but after clutch performances in the triple jump, the Bucs narrowed the deficit to 11 - 205 to 194. Beaver led the way for ETSU as the he won the event with a leap of 48-06.75 (14.80m), while fellow freshman Jason Johnson (Springfield, Pa.) finished second (47-01.75). Rounding out the scoring for the Blue and Gold in the event was Dre Westfield's (Cleveland, Tenn.) fourth-place finish after recording a distance of 46-03.25 (14.10m).
"The guys didn't respond in the long jump Friday, but came out and executed today," said Sunquist. "Yesterday, the jumpers didn't treat this as a conference meet, but today they regrouped and were focused. The end results were two lifetime bests from Ryan and Dre, while missing out on the clean sweep by a few inches."
Despite Rotich claiming his second title of the weekend after becoming only the third athlete in A-Sun history to win three 5000m titles, the Bucs were unable to pull any closer to their conference rival as the Owls won the team championship. Rotich closed out an astonishing career with three outdoor titles in the 5000m and 10000m after recording a time of 14:47.37 Saturday night.
"I am very proud of Kenneth's efforts and it was great to see him cap off an outstanding senior season," said head ETSU track and field coach Dave Walker. "Kenneth has put a lot of time and effort in since arriving on campus and we are truly going to miss him competing for us."
On the women's side, Jacksonville edged out Kennesaw State by 25.50 points (247-221.50) to claim its fifth straight conference championship. Meanwhile, the Lady Bucs placed fourth after scoring 38 of their 53 points Saturday.
"Heading into the meet, I don't think anyone had us finishing in the top five, so the efforts this weekend speak volumes for how hard the ladies competed," added Byrne. "The team put forth a valiant effort, but we still lack the depth that is needed to win."
Junior Ashton Bishop (Gate City, Va.) recorded 12.50 points after finishing fourth in both the high jump and 400m hurdles, while also running a leg in the 4x100 and 4x400-meter relays, which placed fourth.
Fellow junior Jasmine Ingram (Frederick, Md.) placed fifth in the 400m and ran a leg in both relays with Bishop.
After winning her conference-best third title in the hammer Friday afternoon, senior Zachhlynn Blackburn (Tazewell, Va.) closed out her illustrious career by placing fifth in the discus. Blackburn's mark of 132-02 (40.58m) gave the Lady Bucs four points, while a pair of freshman also scored in the triple jump. Kelly Monteleone (Verona, Pa.) finished sixth (37-04) and Ashley Pease (Maryville, Tenn.) posted a career best leap of 34-11 (10.64m) to place seventh.
"Zachlynn wrapped up a stellar career at ETSU this weekend and it was nice to see her go out on a high note with another championship in the hammer Friday," said coach Stone. "She (Zachlynn) has meant a lot to this program and she laid the foundation for the throwers returning and coming in next season. The outlook for this program is very bright, especially with Jasmine Foster in the shot put and discus, Lili Barboza in the hammer and Jordan Beard in the javelin."
The Lady Bucs also scored in the 100m hurdles with Tosha Austin's (Chattanooga, Tenn.) seventh place effort.
The Bucs will now wait and see how many athletes qualify for the NCAA Regional, as Monal and James are the favorites for ETSU to advance.
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