Bucs come up big in the 10000-meters to take over team lead in Jacksonville
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (May 15, 2009) - Despite getting off to a sluggish start on day one of the Atlantic Sun Championships, the ETSU men's track and field team finished strong and made a statement in the final event of the evening to move the Bucs into first place inside Hodges Stadium on the campus of North Florida.
The Bucs, who are looking to post the Trifecta in The River City, overcame some obstacles by capping off the night with a 24-point performance in the 10000-meters, and moved into first by scoring 54 team points on Friday. ETSU leads USC Upstate by 18 points and reigning conference champions, Kennesaw State, by 32.
The Kenyan sensations of Kenneth Rotich (Nairobi) and Ben Ronoh (Sotik) along with senior Michael Deren (Blasdell, N.Y.) stepped up when the Bucs needed a lift tonight and gave ETSU some momentum heading into the final day tomorrow. Rotich, who has now won the 10000-meters in consecutive seasons, cruised his way to the title by posting a new conference record of 30:53.20. Meanwhile, Ronoh and Deren paced each other during the race to pull off the Buccaneer sweep in the long distance event. Ronoh finished second with a time of 31:43.92, while Deren followed closely behind in 31:48.20.
"I am very proud of how our distance runners stepped up tonight and gave us a big shot in the arm," commented head coach David Walker. "Hopefully this performance gives us the momentum we need as we head into tomorrow and we can finish out the meet on a positive note."
ETSU needed the lift in the 10000-meters on Friday, as the Bucs struggled early on, beginning with the two-day decathlon event.
The Buccaneer trio of Nic Chernikow (Seymour, Tenn.), Jordan Briggs (Erwin, Tenn.) and Will Shackleford (Clarksville, Tenn.) made up the four-man field of the decathlon. Despite not being on his A-game, Chernikow still managed to hold the lead after the first five events. Chernikow, who won the 100m, shot put and 400m, leads USC Upstate's Reggie Thompson by 128 points after recording 3257 points. Meanwhile, Briggs sits 207 points behind Thompson with 2922 points, and Shackleford captured 2762 points. The Bucs will look to make it a clean sweep in the decathlon when they wrap up the final five events on Saturday morning, beginning with the 110-meter hurdles.
"I was not satisfied with my performance today and I need to be a lot stronger tomorrow," commented Chernikow. "I came out flat early on and that set the tone for the rest of the day. Hopefully I can make up for it tomorrow by coming out focused and ready to win the championship."
However, the Buccaneer struggles continued on the men's side when the afternoon session started, as junior thrower Jarrod Burton (Bastian, Va.) was disqualified in the shot put, but he quickly bounced back with a first-place performance in the hammer. Burton, who was favored to win the shot put, fouled on his first three tosses and did not advance to the final round. The Bastian, Va. native, however, looked to have his third heave qualify - but after further review Burton's toss was ruled ineligible - knocking him out of the competition. Fortunately, another Burton stepped up with a season-best in the shot put to finish third, as younger brother Justin Burton (Bastian, Va.) let one soar 44-08.75 (13.63m). In addition, fellow freshman Cornell Sneed (Miami, Fla.) gave ETSU a scoring effort by finishing sixth with a mark of 43-04.50 (13.22m). Then, later on in the evening, Jarrod Burton had a chance to redeem himself and the team by going on to win the hammer with a distance of 157-04 (47.97m). Along with Burton, freshman Pat Bearry (Wesley Chapel, Fla.) scored in the event by finishing sixth (146-00).
Meanwhile, as the Bucs were busy competing in the shot put, three ETSU student-athletes turned in scoring efforts in the pole vault. After battling through five grueling events earlier in the day, (Jordan) Briggs put together a stellar effort in the event - finishing second with a personal-best of 15-01 (4.60m). Senior Drew Beamer (Johnson City) and sophomore Matt Baum (Frederick, Md.) each tallied a mark of 13-07.25 (4.15m) and finished fifth and sixth, respectively.
Unfortunately, the Bucs were hit by the injury bug in the long jump, which tampered with another potential 10-point scoring chance. Senior Josh Cloyd (Telford, Tenn.) - who like Burton entered as a favorite in his event - gave the Bucs a gutsy performance and finished sixth with a leap of 21-02 (6.45m). Cloyd has dominated the event all season, but his left leg was severely injured entering the meet and still managed to give it a shot after being bandaged up.
In the men's 100-meter dash, junior Duronal Monal (Belle Glade, Fla.) and freshman Shaun Lambert (Gresham, Ore.) both advanced and will have a chance to claim the title on Saturday. Monal won the prelims with a time of 10.63, while Lambert - who was making is Buccaneer debut - was clocked at 11.06.
On the women's side, junior Zachlynn Blackburn (Tazewell, Va.) had a bittersweet afternoon in the hammer. The Tazewell, Va. native set a new ETSU record in the event with a heave of 161-01 (49.10m), but her toss was not strong enough to win a third straight championship crown. Kennesaw State's Jessica Irizarry won the hammer with a toss of 162-08 (49.58m). Freshman Lili Barboza (Oxford, Ala.) also scored four points in the hammer after her toss landed 148-06 (45.26m).
The Lady Bucs continued to make noise later in the evening as three ETSU sprinters qualified for the finals in the 100-meter dash. Seniors Judy Johnson (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Nae-Nae Bailey (Statesville, N.C.) along with junior Octavia Burgess (Morganton, N.C.) all advanced to Saturday's finals.
After day one the Lady Bucs totaled 12 points and sit fourth behind Kennesaw State, Jacksonville and North Florida. The Owls lead the field with 61 points, while the Dolphins earned 36 points and the host Ospreys ended with 26.
The A-Sun championships conclude on Saturday evening with the awards presentation taking place at 9 p.m. inside Hodges Stadium.
For more information on Buccaneer track and field and the Atlantic Sun Championships, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.