Men's track and field looks to complete the Trifecta in The River City
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (May 14, 2009) - The ETSU men's and women's track and field teams will put everything on the line this weekend when the Buccaneers compete at the 2009 Atlantic Sun Championships in Jacksonville. The two-day conference meet begins Friday morning at 9 a.m. inside Hodges Stadium on the campus of UNF.
The Buccaneer track and field team has enjoyed a stellar year, but this weekend in The River City, the ETSU men's squad will look to make history. ETSU has all ready won the Cross Country and Indoor Track and Field Championships this season - and should the talented men's squad pull off the Trifecta - the Buccaneer Athletic Department would claim their ninth conference championship crown of the year, marking a new program best for a single-season. In addition, no other team in A-Sun history has been able to pull off this daunting task.
ETSU won its first-ever outdoor title in 2007 back in Johnson City; however, Kennesaw State took the title away in 2008. The Owls also made a run at the Bucs at the 2009 Indoor Championships, but with three events remaining, ETSU received strong efforts in the 200m and 5000m, which was good enough to stave off Kennesaw.
Should the Bucs want to pull off the season sweep in all three championships, ETSU will need superior efforts in both the short sprints and distance events again.
Junior Duronal Monal (Belle Glade, Fla.) is the reigning conference champion in the 100m and the speedy sprinter holds the fastest marks in both short sprint events this season. Monal set regional qualifying marks in the 100m (10.46) and the 200m (21.18) last week at the Smoky Mountain Twilight meet in Knoxville. Monal now looks to carry that momentum into his home state this weekend and sweep away the field in both event areas.
A pair of Kenyan sensations looks to guide the ETSU distance runners, as junior Kenneth Rotich (Nairobi) and sophomore transfer Ben Ronoh (Sotik) has packed a 1-2 punch for the Bucs all season. Rotich, the 2008 Cross Country Runner of the Year, is also the reigning champion in both the 5000m and 10000m events. The native from Nairobi, Kenya, totaled 17 points for ETSU at the indoor championships and currently holds the fastest time in the 5000m this outdoor campaign. Meanwhile, Ronoh has given the Bucs a huge lift since transferring to ETSU in the fall, as he took home Most Outstanding Track Performer honors at the indoor meet back in February. Like his cousin Rotich, Ronoh will also run the 5000m and 10000m events, but it's the steeplechase where the sophomore runner will be favored in. Ronoh currently holds the fastest mark in the event this season, as his time of 9:38.94 is three seconds faster the UNF's Jonathan Esteban (9:41.48). Seniors Jeff Crane (Taylors, S.C.) and Michael Deren (Blasdell, N.Y.) along with junior J Penny (Jonesborough, Tenn.) can also come away with some big points in the distance events this weekend. Crane sits second behind Rotich in the 5000m, while Deren has the fifth fastest time in the event. Like Ronoh, Penny excels in the steeplechase, as he ranks third amongst the A-Sun field.
The Bucs also hope to bag up a plethora of points in the field events, as senior Josh Cloyd (Telford, Tenn.) and junior thrower Jarrod Burton (Bastian, Va.) carry the load for ETSU.
Cloyd swept the long and triple jump inside Memorial Center at the indoor championships three months ago - and the senior leaper has enjoyed a bright outdoor season - as he holds the top marks in both events amongst A-Sun competitors. The Telford, Tenn. native turned in a leap of 48-03.25 at Hodges Stadium back in April, and that mark at the UNF Osprey Challenge is almost two feet longer than the nearest athlete in the A-Sun (Campbell's Robert Brunson). In addition, Cloyd also holds the top mark over Brunson in the long jump (23-04.50 at Liberty's Twilight meet on April 30).
Meanwhile, Burton is the favorite in both the hammer and shot put, and also has a shot to win all four throwing events. The Bastian, Va. native holds an outstanding margin over Kennesaw State's Aymerick Kolokilagi in the shot put, and the same over Belmont's Tyler Howell in the hammer. Burton's ETSU record heave of 52-06.50 in the shot put is over two feet better than Kolokilagi and over 17 feet longer than Howell in the hammer. Burton and freshman Cornell Sneed (Miami, Fla.) also rank second and third in the conference in the discus, and the junior ranks third in the javelin. Sophomore Matt Baum (Middletown, Md.) has been a great addition for the Bucs in the javelin as well, with his heave of 165-02 placing him fourth on the A-Sun performance charts. Baum can also expect to see a scoring effort in the pole vault.
Back on the track, sophomore Mike James (Palm Bay, Fla.) will give the Bucs a boost in the sprints and hurdles. James is one of the top four hurdlers in the 110-meter event after setting a regional qualifying mark of 14.27 at Liberty last month. The Palm Bay, Fla. native can also look to give ETSU a scoring chance in the 400-meter hurdles, as James currently ranks sixth in the A-Sun (56.54).
A pair of juniors in Nic Chernikow (Seymour, Tenn.) and Jordan Briggs (Erwin, Tenn.) highlights the Bucs in the decathlon. Chernikow, the 2007 champion in the decathlon, is also coming off a championship performance in the heptathlon at the indoor meet. Briggs will score points for ETSU in the decathlon and gives ETSU a lift in the pole vault as well. The Erwin, Tenn. native currently is second behind USC Upstate's Justin Crawford in the pole vault, after Briggs turned in a mark of 14-11.00 at the UNF Osprey Challenge a month ago. Local standout Drew Beamer (Johnson City) will join Briggs in the pole and ranks fifth in the league.
On the women's side, the Lady Bucs have strong scoring chances in the short sprints, middle distance and throwing events.
Seniors Judy Johnson (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Nae-Nae Bailey (Statesville, N.C.) have their eyes set by finishing on top in the 100 and 200-meter events. Johnson - who has all ready raced to regional qualifying times in both event areas - also holds the league's fastest marks as well. The Knoxville native carries Atlantic Sun Athlete of the Week honors into the meet after running 11.68 in the 100m at the Tennessee Invitational on Saturday, while turning in a time of 23.78 inside Hodges Stadium back in April. Bailey, who has seen limited action this season, ranks fourth in both the 100 and 200m.
Senior transfer Heidi Dahl (Orem, Utah) has been a huge addition to the Lady Buccaneer track team this season. After transferring from BYU, the Orem, Utah native competed at Nationals in the indoor season, and has all ready set regional qualifying marks in both the 800m and 1500m. Dahl's ETSU record time of 2:06.41 is eight seconds faster than Jacksonville's Amalia Vogler in the 800 and an overwhelming 17 seconds faster than the Dolphins' Alyssa Deal in the 1500. Dahl is also the only female competitor to set regional marks in both events.
In the field events, junior thrower Zachlynn Blackburn (Tazewell, Va.) and freshman Lili Barboza (Oxford, Ala.) will give ETSU a shot in the arm in the hammer, shot put, and discus. Blackburn is gunning for her third straight title in the hammer - and after having the discus crown taken from her a year ago - the experienced veteran looks to recapture the title in 2009. The Tazewell, Va. native will have some stiff competition in the hammer, and Blackburn won't have to look far to see who that competitor is. Barboza is breathing right down the neck of Blackburn, as she ranks second in the A-Sun with her toss of 156-09, which was set at the first outdoor meet of the year at Milligan. Blackburn leads her teammate by over two feet in the event when she let one soar 158-10, marking a new ETSU record here in Jacksonville.
Meanwhile, sophomore runner Ashton Bishop (Gate City, Va.) will look to put together a strong effort in the 400-meter hurdles, as she carries the sixth fastest time into the championships. Also, sprinters Jasmine Ingram (Frederick, Md.) and Octavia Burgess (Morganton, N.C.) will give the Lady Bucs some added depth in the 100, 200 and 400-meters.
The Lady Bucs, who finished fifth in 2008, enjoyed their best ranking of third when ETSU hosted the championships in 2007. Like the ETSU men, Jacksonville's women are looking to complete a difficult task by winning its fourth straight conference crown.