Day one of Niswonger in the books; Blackburn breaks her own school record in the weight
Friday, January 18, 2008

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 18, 2008) - The first day of the 30th annual Niswonger Invitational is in the books and the East Tennessee State track and field team displayed some major highlights on Friday inside Memorial Center on the David E. Walker Track.


"I am very pleased with how our athletes competed today and hopefully we can see the same effort tomorrow," added associate head track and field coach Michelle Byrne.


Sophomore Zachlynn Blackburn (Tazewell, Va.) was once again busy breaking the ETSU record in the weight throw. On Blackburn's second throw of the afternoon she broke the school mark for the second time this season. Blackburn heaved the weight 51-11 (15.82m), placing fourth overall with the distance. 


"Zachlynn had a personal best, and some of her better throws just landed out of the sector," said ETSU throws coach Meg Stone. "There is a lot more there for her, but I think she still had a good performance today and I expect big things out of her as the season continues."


Also on the women's side, junior Nae-Nae Bailey (Statesville, N.C.) gave the Buccaneer faithful a glimpse of her speed in the 200-meter event. Bailey blazed her way to a third-place finish in the preliminaries and will race for the title tomorrow afternoon. The Statesville native finished with a time of 24.68, which was the second-fastest from a collegiate athlete.


"This has probably been the most challenging fall for Nae-Nae because of her being injured, but she worked hard in the weight room and in practice and she did great today," added Byrne. "Her time was close to her lifetime best in the outdoor 200-meters, and I hope she carries this momentum over into the finals tomorrow."


In the women's 400 meters, sophomore Christin Zink (Herndon, Va.) turned in the second-fastest time in her heat and placed 19th overall. Zink finished the event with a mark of 60.15.


On the men's side, sophomore Jarrod Burton (Bastian, Va.) was making noise in the field and freshman Mike James (Palm Bay, Fla.) showcased his skills on the track.


In the weight throw, Burton continued to improve on his mark in the event. Burton set a new season best with his toss of 57-03 (17.45m) and finished fifth overall. It was the third consecutive time this year the Bastian native set a new distance in the weight.


"Burton came close to breaking the school record today," commented Stone. "He is trying to get the technical things right, and if he can get that corrected you will see a big jump in his performance."


On the other side, James was busy on the track as he flew his way into the finals of the 60-meter hurdles. James secured a spot in Saturday's final by winning his heat and placing fourth in the prelims with a time of 8.45.


"I am really excited about James' ability to be one of the best hurdlers in the conference," mentioned Byrne. "It is great to see him in the finals. In my six years here at ETSU we have never had a hurdler reach the finals of the Niswonger Invitational. He still has a lot of work to do on his starts, but if he really works hard he can be dominant in the A-Sun and maybe even on the regional level."


For the second straight year, the ETSU track and field program helped promote youth fitness by hosting the Elementary Shuttle Relays. The Buccaneer track program invited local third, fourth and fifth graders to the Dome and participate in a competitive event. The objective is to encourage the young athletes to compete in a fun filled activity at an early level.


The second and final day of the 30th annual Niswonger Invitational kicks off bright and early Saturday morning. The historic meet begins at 8 a.m. inside Memorial Center.


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