JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (May 12, 2007) - In February the ETSU men's track field team proved to its Atlantic Sun competitors how strong of a force they can be when they won the indoor conference title, and four months later they repeated the task, claiming the 2007 A-Sun Outdoor title Saturday evening at the Liberty Bell Track. The win gives ETSU its eighth team championship during the 2006-07 season, marking the most titles won in school history for one athletic year.
The ETSU men's track and field team trailed Gardner-Webb by 18 points as they entered the final day of competition, but when the dust was all settled the Bucs rallied past the field to win their first-ever outdoor title in school history. ETSU and Gardner-Webb fought hard the entire day, but the Bucs tallied 192 total points while the Runnin' Bulldogs posted 148. Belmont finished third with 129 points.
For the weekend the men collected 20 medals, including seven gold as 17 different ETSU athletes scored points during the championship run. At the post-race ceremony Jarrod Burton (Bastian, Va.) received the Most Outstanding Freshman Performer award after he collected 30 points for the Bucs, while Dave Walker won his second Coach of the Year award on the season. Instead of Walker receiving the award he wanted his coaching staff to accept it at the ceremony for all of their hardwork they have put in to make the teams successful.
Freshman Nic Chernikow (Seymour, Tenn.) got things rolling for the Bucs as he won the conference's inaugural heptathlon after beating out Gardner-Webb's Elliott Haynie. Chernikow entered the decathlon with a 178-point advantage over Haynie; however, after Saturday's first four events Haynie wiped out Chernikow's lead and led by 300 points, heading into the final event. The Seymour, Tenn. native blew GWU's top athlete away in the 1,500 meters, finishing over a minute better than Haynie, with a time of 4:43.66. Chernikow did just enough in the final event to pull off the gold medal victory as he posted 5765 points, which was nine points better than Haynie. Jordan Briggs (Erwin, Tenn.) provided a strong performance in the event as well, finishing third with 5042 points. Chernikow and Briggs also scored in the 110-meter hurdles.
When someone tells Burton to throw an object he will, and when he does it usually ends up going a long way. Burton scored in every throwing event over the weekend, including the javelin, which he just started practicing last week. Burton added to his medal collection as he won gold in the shot put and silver in the javelin. Freshman Dakota Cagle (Rutherford College, N.C.) also provided a medal-earning performance in the shot as he recorded a toss of 49-02.50 (15m), marking his second best mark of the season.
Burton was not the only ETSU athlete racking up a lot of points over the weekend as teammate Mike Wright (Chattanooga, Tenn.) was a workhorse, tallying 30 points in the two-day competition. Wright won medals in the 110-meter hurdles (silver), high jump (bronze), long jump (bronze) and triple jump (bronze). The native of Chattanooga also scored in 400-meter hurdles, finishing fourth. Joining Wright in the triple jump was junior Nate Strickland (Morganton, N.C.) as he placed fourth, with a season-best leap of 44-03.25.
The Bucs were not done having fun as James Rainer (Alcoa, Tenn.), Derek Carey (Nassau, Bahamas) and Johnny Tucker (Spartanburg, S.C.) made it a clean seep in the 100- and 200-meter dash, finishing both events in the order they appear. The trio of sprinters along with freshman Chris Harrison (Woodbridge, Va.) also won gold in the 4x100-meter relay, posting a mark of 40.73. Harrison wasn't with his first-place finishes as he took the top spot in the 400, posting a time of 48.36. Also scoring in the 400 event was Tyler Woodruff (Sevierville, Tenn.). The men claimed the title in the 4x400-meter relay, making it a clean sweep in the relays as well.
The ETSU men's distance runners gave the team a lift as sophomore Jeff Crane (Taylors, S.C.) posted a season-best time of 4:03.68 in the 1,500 meters, placing him fifth. Michael Deren (Blasdell, N.Y.) set a season best mark in the 5,000 meters, finishing fourth in 15:05.31. Rounding out the scoring for the Bucs in the distance events was junior Jordan Ladd (Lyn, Ontario), placing fifth in the steeplechase.
The ETSU women did a tremendous job as they posted a third-place finish, despite only being able to register 12 athletes in the competition. Jacksonville ran away with the title for the second straight year, posting 179 points, while Belmont came in second with 97 points and the Bucs tallied 90 points for third. The women bagged eight medals as well as making it a clean sweep in the Most Outstanding Freshman Performer area as Zachlynn Blackburn (Tazewell, Va.) won the award after winning titles in the hammer and discus.
Like the men, the ETSU women sprinters ran like bullets on the track as senior Jenny Knox (Connelly Springs, N.C.) and sophomore Nae-Nae Bailey (Statesville, N.C.) each won medals in the 100 meters. Knox (11.85) and Bailey (11.95) each set personal-bests in the event as Knox won gold and Bailey took home bronze. The senior speedster also set a personal-best in the 200-meters as she edged out Bailey for third.
Freshman Brooke Berarducci (Knoxville, Tenn.) followed up yesterday's second-place finish in the discus with a third-place mark in the shot put. Berarducci picked up six points with her heave of 41-01 (12.52m), marking her longest toss of her rookie season.
Senior Anna Marie Ricciardi (Canfield, Ohio) finished her career with silver-medal nod in the high jump, and came in fifth in the 100-meter hurdles. Ricciardi posted a leap of 5-07 (1.70m), which was also the same height UNF's Amy Stroder cleared, but Stroder posted the least amount of fouls in the event and won the gold. In the hurdles, Ricciardi finished with a time of 15.43.
Freshman Vicki Currie (Dumfries, Scotland) and Valerie Boothby (Glend Gardner, N.J.) provided scoring efforts in the 800 meters, finishing fourth and fifth respectively. Currie posted a mark of 2:16.76, while Boothby crossed the line in 2:19.28, marking a lifetime best.
The ETSU track and field season is not finished for some as Rainer, Ricciardi, and the men's 4x100-meter relay team will prepare for the NCAA Regionals. The Bucs will compete in the Mid East region, which is hosted by the University of Missouri. Regionals will begin Friday, May 25.