JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 26, 2010) - Led by junior pole vaulter Matt Baum (Middletown, Md.) the ETSU men's track and field team closed out day one action of the 2010 Atlantic Sun Conference Track and Field Championships on a high note Friday, as the Bucs currently sit in first place with 64 team points. Meanwhile, on the women's side, ETSU posted 14 points, 54.5 points off the pace set by league rival Kennesaw State.
Early on ETSU enjoyed its home track advantage as Baum picked up the Bucs first individual title in the men's pole vault. Baum, who battled senior teammate Jordan Briggs (Erwin, Tenn.) for the top honor, soared to a personal record mark of 15-0.91 (4. 60m).
"That was a huge performance for us today," said associate head coach Michelle Byrne. "To finish first and second is a tribute to both Eli and John, who has done such an outstanding job coaching our guys this season. Obviously I can't say enough about what Matt accomplished this afternoon. He's a walk-on kid that has worked his hardest under Eli to get better on the track and in the weight room. Today he showed what a competitive heart he has by winning his first conference title."
After ETSU's strong showing in the pole vault, the Bucs then looked to extend its advantage in the men's 3000m. Senior Kenneth Rotich (Nairobi, Kenya) - who finished second to his cousin and sophomore teammate Ben Ronoh (Sotik, Kenya) a season ago in the indoor championships - repeated his silver medal feat Friday evening after posting a time of 8:28.92. USC Upstate freshman Gilbert Kemboi took home the title with a blistering time of 8:23.97, while Ronoh finished fifth for the Bucs with a disappointing time of 8:36.36.
"We were hoping for more points than we got in the 3000m," said Byrne. "Some of our biggest points come from Ben and Ken so it was a bit discouraging on how the race finished. That being said, both guys came back later in the distance medal relays and ran better. For us to score well as a team both Ken and Ben have to be at their best. After getting some rest tonight I expect them to be ready tomorrow and have a better showing together."
With two events down ETSU continued to score well on the track in the DMR. After Ronoh began the first leg of the relay, sophomore Zach Berry (Knoxville, Tenn.) ran a quick 400m leg, before handing off to junior Manny Gonzales (Maryville, Tenn.), who ran unbelievable race in the 800m. Rotich then closed out the relay in the 1600m, giving the Bucs six key points and a surprise third place finish.
""The biggest key in the DMR was how Manny and Zack ran," said Byrne. "Guys like Manny Gonzales and Zack Berry are the glue that binds our team together. Both guys were rock solid for us today in their portion of the race."
Meanwhile, while ETSU was gaining stream on the track, the Bucs field events stayed strong with good efforts in the men's shot put and long jump.
Sophomores Cornell Sneed (Miami, Fla.), Justin Burton (Bastain, Va.) and junior Matt Allison (Fairfax, Va.) all scored for ETSU in the throws, while a trio of freshmen in Ryan Beaver (Virginia Beach, Va.) Max Lee (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Dre Westfield (Cleveland, Tenn.) all placed third, fourth and fifth in the long jump finals.
In preliminary round action, ETSU got a number of outstanding efforts in the heptathlon and men's 60m dash.
Lee and senior teammate Nic Chernikow (Seymour, Tenn,) closed out their first day performances in the heptathlon in second place with 2687 points. The Buc duo currently sits 41 points behind day one leader Matt Fiedler of Belmont, while Jordan Briggs sits just outside the top-three individuals in fourth with 2613 total.
Also advancing to the finals on Friday were sprinters Duronal Monal (Belle Glade, Fla.) and Quentin Greenlee (Morristown, Tenn.). Monal - who has ran strong this indoor season -- rolled to a school and conference record time of 6.71 seconds in the 60-meter dash. With his top performances in the prelims, Monal also posted a NCAA qualifying mark with his record setting time. Meanwhile, Greenlee - who ran the 60m in 6.83 - qualified for Saturday's final with the second fastest time of the day.
"Duronal's performance is obviously a big deal," said Byrne. "Today he executed well and just kind of let the race come to him. At the same time I can't say enough about Quentin's performance today. He's is an unbelievable athlete that is just returning to form, but that being said you can see this afternoon what type of time he's capable of putting up when healthy."
Overall, ETSU closed out the day one standings with a 23 point lead over Kennesaw State, who sits in second with 41 points total. Conference foes Campbell and Belmont sit tied for third with 21 points, while North Florida, Lipscomb and USC Upstate round out the scores after the first day of competition.
On the women's side ETSU's best showings came from freshman Kelly Monteleone in the long jump and senior Zacklynn Blackburn (Tazewell, Va.) in the shot put. Monteleone tallied five points for the Lady Bucs after her fourth place finish, while Blackburn placed seventh with a season-best throw of 40' 9" (12.48m).
Overall, KSU leads the field after day one with 68.5 points, while defending champion Jacksonville sits in second with 62. Campbell is currently in third place with 29.5 points, followed by North Florida (25 points), USC Upstate (16 points), ETSU (14 points), Belmont (13 points) and Lipscomb (6 points).
"Heading tomorrow, the big thing is that we advanced in numbers today," said Byrne. "We placed well in some events, which made up for some disappointing finishes in some others. Now we have a chance with our position to repeat as champions on the men's side and improve on the women's. If we take care of business and execute like we are capable of then both teams will be in a good position to have some outstanding finishes tomorrow."
Attached above are final results from Friday's events, in addition to a video interview with ETSU associate head coach Michelle Byrne, courtsey of the Atlantic Sun Coference.
For more information on the ETSU track and field team please visit www.ETSUBucs.com.