BOONE, N.C. (Dec. 1, 2007) - Sophomore hurler Zachlynn Blackburn (Tazewell, Va.) opened the 2007-08 indoor track and field season in record setting fashion, as she blasted a new school record in the weight throw at the Appalachian State Invitational Saturday inside the Holmes Convocation Center. As a whole, the East Tennessee State track and field team kicked off the campaign on a high note, with four Buccaneer athletes bagging gold medals at the meet.
"We performed very well for an opening meet," commented associate head track and field coach Michelle Byrne. "This is the best season start in my, coach (Dave) Walker, and (Meg) Stone's tenure together at ETSU."
Blackburn, who was named Most Outstanding Freshman Performer at the 2007 Atlantic Sun Outdoor Championship, continued to build on her all ready impressive resume Saturday. The Tazewell, Va. native set a new school record in the weight throw with a heave of 51-08.50 (15.76m), smashing the previous mark of 49-11 (15.21m) which was set by Dedra Jones a year ago.
"Zachlynn's performance on Saturday was exceptional," added ETSU throws coach Meg Stone. "She picked up where she left off last season, and hopefully will continue to build on this success as the year goes on."
While Blackburn was making noise in the field event, head coach Dave Walker's distance runners were tearing it up on the track. Junior Jeff Crane (Taylors, S.C.) and sophomore Kenneth Rotich (Nairobi, Kenya) each won their respective event. Crane blazed through the competition in the mile, posting a time of 4:27. Rotich, who is coming off a spectacular cross country season, decided to carry the momentum in the indoor season. The sophomore sensation took home the 3,000-meter title in impressive fashion, finishing with a time of 8:37.39; which was 20 seconds faster than the second-place runner.
The men's 4x400-meter relay squad also brought back a gold medal to Johnson City. The group of Chris Harrison (Woodbridge, Va.), Mike James (Palm Bay, Fla.), Josh Cloyd (Telford, Tenn.), and Zack Titman (Damascus, Va.) beat out Radford (3:19.61) with a time of 3:19.29. Harrison also turned in a personal-best in the 55-meter dash, ending in 6.43. James and senior Mike Wight (Chattanooga, Tenn.) each battled each other in the 55-meter hurdles. Wright beat out his freshman teammate for third (7.68), while James crossed the line in 7.72 to finish fourth. The Chattanooga native was also busy battling with senior Shane Estes (Maryville, Tenn.) in the high jump. Both athletes tied for fourth with a leap of 6-04 (1.93m). Rounding out the highlights on the men's side was sophomore Jarrod Burton's (Bastian, Va.) performance in the weight throw. Burton ended the day with a respectable sixth-place finish, heaving the weight 54-02.75 (16.53m).
On the women's side, freshman Rochelle Crook (Cookeville, Tenn.) made it an ETSU sweep in the 3,000 meters. Crook beat out Gardner-Webb's Carrie Minard for the title, finishing with a time of 12:12.73.
The Buccaneer trio of Nae-Nae Bailey (Statesville, N.C.), Judy Johnson (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Jasmine Ingram (Frederick, Md.) all provided strong efforts in the sprints. Johnson and Bailey battled neck-and-neck in the 55 meters, as Johnson tied for second (7.14) and Bailey tied for fourth (7.15). Ingram blazed to a third-place finish in the 400, ending the race in 57.28. Freshman Ashton Bishop (Gate City, Va.) enjoyed her first-ever collegiate meet, posting a top-five mark in the high jump. Bishop wrapped up the event with a leap of 5-01.75 (1.57m) which was good for a fourth-place finish.
The ETSU track and field team will now enjoy the holidays as they will not compete until after the New Year. The Buccaneers will be back in action on Jan. 11, when they head to Blacksburg Va. for the Virginia Tech Invitational.