JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 19, 2009) - The ETSU track and field program has begun its final preparations for this weekend's 2009 Atlantic Sun Indoor Conference Championship set to take place inside Memorial Center. The meet begins Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. and runs through Saturday evening.
Last season the Buccaneer men's squad had their two-year run as conference champions taken away from them by Kennesaw State, and this season ETSU looks to bring the hardware back to Johnson City. The Lady Bucs finished fifth last season and look to battle to stay at the top with both Belmont and Jacksonville. The Dolphins have won three straight conference titles and are eyeing number four this weekend on the David E. Walker Track.
On the men's side, Kenneth Rotich (Nairobi, Kenya), Quentin Greenlee (Morristown, Tenn.), Ben Ronoh (Sotik, Kenya), Josh Cloyd (Telford, Tenn.) and Jarrod Burton (Bastian, Va.) all sit atop the performance chart in their respective events.
Rotich, the reigning A-Sun champion in the 5000m, ranks first in the league in both the 3000m and 5000m events. The junior distance runner, who also won the 2008 Atlantic Sun Cross Country Championship, turned in a time of 14:33.61 in the 5000m last month at Clemson. Rotich also posted the fastest time amongst conference foes in the 3000, as he finished with a time of 8:32.67 earlier this month at the Virginia Tech Elite Meet.
Kenneth's cousin, sophomore (Ben) Ronoh has been a huge addition to the Buccaneer track team. Ronoh is the fastest miler in the A-Sun after easing his way to a time of 4:13.15 in Blacksburg as well. Ronoh's time is a full second faster than Kennesaw State's Scott Burley (4:14.73) and the Kenyan sensation also ranks second behind Rotich in the 5000m (14:55.92).
Staying on the track, freshman (Quentin) Greenlee looks to make some noise in his first conference championship meet. Greenlee all ready impressed the field at Clemson last month when he set a new track record in the 300m, and the Morristown, Tenn. native holds the top time in the 200m as well. Greenlee set the mark back on Jan. 17 in Boone, when he posted a time of 22.37.
In the field events, both Burton and Cloyd are expected to give the Bucs a shot in the arm.
Burton, who holds the ETSU record in both the weight and shot put, is also the number one competitor in these events as well. The junior thrower will be battling some stiff competition from Kennesaw State, as Josh McNair sits second in both events and Aymerick Kolokilagi ranks third in the weight and Casey Strickland is third in the shot put.
Cloyd is eyeing both titles in the long and triple jump this weekend on his home track. The senior from Telford, Tenn. just missed setting a NCAA Provisional Mark in the long jump a few weeks ago at the Virginia Tech Elite Meet with a leap of 24-05.75 (7.46m). Cloyd received A-Sun Athlete of the Week honors after setting that mark and the talented jumper also holds the league's top jump in the triple (14.12m). As Burton will be tested by some tough competitors in the throws, Cloyd will be battling Robert Brunson and Allen Brown, both from Campbell.
Junior Nic Chernikow (Seymour, Tenn.) looks to claim his first heptathlon title this weekend in Johnson City. Chernikow set a new ETSU record in the event last month at Liberty after finishing the grueling two-day event with 4770 points. Joining Chernikow in the event will be fellow junior Jordan Briggs (Erwin, Tenn.) - who finished eighth at Liberty with 4242 points.
The Bucs will also need some strong efforts from Pat Bearry (Wesley Chapel, Fla.) and Cornell Sneed (Miami, Fla.) in the throws; while seniors Jeff Crane (Taylors, S.C.) and Michael Deren (Blasdell, N.Y.) look to score points in the distance events. Duronal Monal (Belle Glade, Fla.) and Terrence Maxwell (Kingsport, Tenn.) will strengthen ETSU's sprint group as well.
On the women's side, senior transfer Heidi Dahl (Orem, Utah), Zachlynn Blackburn (Tazewell, Va.), Nae-Nae Bailey (Statesville, N.C.), Judy Johnson (Knoxville) and Octavia Burgess (Morganton, N.C.) will help guide the Lady Bucs this weekend.
Blackburn and Johnson are the reigning conference champions in their respective events. Blackburn, a junior thrower, won the weight throw a year ago inside Memorial Center, while Johnson turned in the fastest time in the 60m.
Blackburn currently ranks third in both the weight (16.85m) and shot put (12.42m) and set a new school mark in the weight with her heave of 55-03.50, which came at the Niswonger Invitational.
Meanwhile, Johnson and Bailey pack a 1-2 punch for the Lady Bucs in the 60m and 200m. The senior duo rank second and third behind Belmont's Lynette Rives in both events. Johnson ranks second and Bailey is third.
Newcomer (Heidi) Dahl has been the biggest addition for ETSU this season. The transfer from BYU was named A-Sun Athlete of the Week four times this season and has set NCAA Provisional Marks in both the mile and 800m. Dahl's time of 4:41.90 beat out the 8-woman at last weekends Tyson Invitational and ranks 25th in the NCAA.
For a complete recap of events, visit www.ETSUBucs.com on Friday and Saturday.