ETSU makes final preparations for 2007 Atlantic Sun Outdoor Track and Field Championships
Thursday, May 10, 2007

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (May 10, 2007) - After claiming the 2007 Atlantic Sun Indoor Track and Field Championship, the ETSU men's track and field team will look to make it a clean sweep this weekend as they look to earn its first-ever outdoor title and keep the hardware in Johnson City. The meet begins Friday with the men's decathlon kicking things off at 8 a.m. at the Liberty Bell Track Facility.


On the men's side, ETSU will battle with Gardner-Webb and Belmont for the team title. The women's track and field team will shoot for a top-six finish this weekend and look to get a strong push from its sprinters, throwers and high jumpers. Jacksonville will look to defend the women's title, while Gardner-Webb will do the same on the men's side.


"There is a good chance for the men to contend for the title, but they are going to have provide their best performances of the season in order to do so," said associate head coach Michelle Byrne. "Hopefully by having the meet on our home turf it will give us a slight advantage, but there are a lot of strong teams and competitors out there, which makes this a solid championship meet."


Men's Preview

The Bucs will look to speedsters James Rainer (Alcoa, Tenn.), Johnny Tucker (Spartanburg, S.C.) and Derek Carey (Nassau, Bahamas) for top finishes in the 100 and 200 meters. This trio of sprinters will be expected to rack up huge point totals in the 100-meter event as they all rank in the top-five among A-Sun leaders. Rainer holds the fastest mark with his Regional Qualifying mark of 10.43, which was set at the Charlotte 49er Classic, while Tucker and Carey holds the fourth and fifth fastest times in the league. Tucker's 10.86 (Vanderbilt Invitational) ranks him fourth and Carey 10.90 places him fifth. Rainer (21.79) and Tucker (22.13) rank second and third in the 200-meters, and Carey will be making his season debut in the event on Saturday. Rainer will be defending his title in both events.


In the 400-meter event, freshman Chris Harrison (Woodbridge, Va.) will look to hold off Belmont's Stephen Register and Clint Hamm for gold. Harrison won the indoor title a few months ago inside Memorial Center in the event, when he set a new conference mark of 50.28, and he currently owns the league's quickest time with a 48.78 mark, set at the Weems Baskin Invitational. Tyler Woodruff (Sevierville, Tenn.) will also join Harrison in the 400 as he makes his season debut.


"We expect our sprinters to make an impact at the meet, however, they will get some strong competition from Campbell and Belmont," added Byrne. "Our guys have run well this season, and if the men want to win the team title, they will need to pick up a lot of points in these events."


Head coach David Walker will turn to Jeff Crane (Taylors, S.C.), Jordan Ladd (Lyn, Ontario), Michael Deren (Blasdell, N.Y.), J Penny (Telford, Tenn.) and Kenneth Rotich (Sotik, Kenya) in the distance events. Crane will run in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters, while Ladd and Penny will be called upon in the 5,000 meters and the steeplechase. Rotich is still questionable to run this weekend after missing the entire indoor and outdoor campaign, but he may try to give the Bucs a boost in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. ETSU will have to compete with the strong contingent of runners from Belmont and Campbell if they want to score points in the distance events; however, Ladd has the best chance to score for the Bucs in the steeplechase. The junior has the fourth fastest time in the A-Sun, with his 9:42.67 performance, set at the Furman Invitational. 


The 4x100 relay team of Rainer, Tucker, Carey and Harrison will look to keep the gold in Johnson City for the second straight season, after setting a Regional Qualifying mark of 40.21 at the Vanderbilt Invitational. The time is a full two seconds better than second-place Belmont (42.82).  The 4x400 relay squad also ranks first in the A-Sun this season with a time of 3:24.54, but it is only three-hundredths of a second faster than Kennesaw State's team.


Nate Strickland (Morganton, N.C.) will lead the men in the long and triple jump, but Mike Reber (Sunbright, Tenn.) and Eric Snapp (Bristol, Va.) will also be representing ETSU in both events. Reber put together a scoring performance in last year's long jump, and currently ranks sixth in the conference this season. Strickland will have the best shot to place for the Bucs in the long jump, as he currently holds the fourth best  leap in the conference (22-01.50).


Carrying the load in a lot of multiple events will be junior Mike Wright (Chattanooga, Tenn.) as he will compete in the 110-meter hurdles and the horizontal and vertical jumps. The multi-talented athlete will have a great shot win gold in the hurdles and place in the top three among the high jumpers. Also competing in the high jump for ETSU will be junior Shane Estes (Maryville, Tenn.). Estes has been battling through injury all season long and will make his second appearance of the season in the event this weekend. He finished third at the Furman Invitational, with a mark of 5-10 (1.78m).


"We hope Wright will be able to give us a huge lift in the individual events, instead of wearing him out in the decathlon," added Byrne. "If the men are going to win the team title, Wright will need to string together solid performances in his respective events."


Representing the Bucs in the decathlon will be Nic Chernikow (Seymour, Tenn.), Jordan Briggs (Erwin, Tenn.) and Snapp. Chernikow will look to build off his third place finish in the heptathlon at the Indoor Championships, where he finished with 4096 points. Chernikow competed at the Deacon Combined Events in March, and finished 14th overall.


Local hero Drew Beamer (Johnson City) will lead ETSU in the pole vault, while junior Dave Thomas (Maryville, Tenn.) and freshman Jordan Briggs will also showcase their skills in the event as well. Thomas scored in the pole vault last season, and Beamer looks to do the same this year. Beamer ranks fourth in the A-Sun with his mark of 14-07.25 (4.45m).


The group of athletes looking to make the biggest impact for the Bucs this weekend will come from coach Meg Stone's throwers. Freshman Jarrod Burton (Bastian, Va.) has been tearing it up for ETSU since stepping foot on campus. He has already rewritten the record books in the hammer and shot put, and ranks in the top three among A-Sun athletes in the hammer, shot and discus. Burton will face some stiff competition in Gardner-Webb's Cody Mac Arthur and Matt Knippen. Mac Arthur will be defending his title in the discus and hammer, while Knippen will do the same in the shot put. Also looking to do some damage for the Bucs will be another freshman in Dakota Cagle (Rutherford College, N.C.) as he holds the fifth best mark in the shot put at 49-05.75, which was set at the Highlander Collegiate Challenge in April.


"The throwers are a very tight group and hopefully they can put points on the board early and build off each others momentum," said Byrne.


Women's Preview

Despite key injuries to Octavia Burgess (Morganton, N.C.) and Jasmine Redford (Johnson City), the powerful duo of Jenny Knox (Connelly Springs, N.C) and Nae-Nae Bailey (Statesville, N.C.) have picked up the pace for Bucs this spring. The two ETSU women's sprinters are likely to score a bundle of points in their respective event areas. Knox ranks second in the 100-meters with her 11.88 mark set at Vanderbilt, while Bailey ranks fifth in the event. In the 200, Bailey and Knox hold the second and third fastest times respectively. Bailey set the school record with her 24.10 performance at Vanderbilt, while Knox also had her best run of the season in Nashville, posting a time of 24.20.


"Knox and Bailey have run well all season and I am excited to see them compete," added Byrne. "They have worked hard all spring and I hope to see it pay off on the track this weekend."


The freshman contingent of Christin Zink (Herndon, Va.), Vicki Currie (Dumfries, Scotland) and Valerie Boothby (Glen Gardner, N.J.) will lead the Bucs in the 400 and 800 meters. Zink will be ETSU's lone runner in the 400, while Currie and Boothby will represent the team in the 800. Currie has the best chance to score for the Bucs after running 2:16.65 at the Sea Relays, placing her sixth in the conference.


The Bucs will hope to get a lift from sophomore Heather Adkins (Kansas City, Mo.) in the long distance events. Adkins will compete in the 5,000 and 10,000-meter events, and will look to improve on her eighth place showing in the 10,000 at last year's conference championships. The Kansas City, Mo. native has an excellent shot of claiming the 10,000-meter title as she holds the league's second-best time at 38:12.43.


Senior Anna Marie Ricciardi (Canfield, Ohio) will look to bag points in the 100-meter hurdles as well as in the high jump. Ricciardi will be defending her high jump title, but will have to battle off North Florida's Amy Stroder for gold. Stroder holds the best mark in the league with her leap of 5-10 (1.78m), set at the Seminole Invite in April. Ricciardi ranks second in the A-Sun with her Regional Qualifying Mark of 5-08.90 (1.75m), which was set at the Weems Baskin Invitational and will look to close out a sensational career with yet another gold in the high jump.


The lone long and triple jumper for the Bucs is Tashauna Robinson (Trelowny, Jamaica, W.I.). The sophomore's best shot to score will be in the triple jump, where she owns the sixth longest leap in the conference at 36-00.75 (10.99m).


Like the men, the ETSU women throwers have put together a stellar season and look to make some noise at the outdoor championships this weekend. A pair of Tazewell, Va. natives will lead the charge for the Bucs in the hammer as Zachlynn Blackburn and Dedra Jones as they hold the league's second and third highest marks. Blackburn set the school record at the Highlander Collegiate Challenge with a heave of 149-08.00 (45.62m), while Jones also posted her best performance of the season at the same meet (148-00). Leading the way in the shot put will be Brooke Berarducci (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Blackburn, as the freshman pair are the fourth and sixth strongest competitors in the event. Berarducci ranks fourth with her heave of 40-09 (12.42m), and Blackburn's toss of 39-00.25 (11.89m) places her sixth. All three of Stone's throwers have a solid chance to score in the discus.