It's a new day for Ashland University's indoor track and field program.
Eleven Eagles will seek national titles at the 2016 NCAA Division II Championships on Friday (March 11) and Saturday (March 12) in Pittsburg, Kan. In past years, the goals were both team- and individual-based. This season, however, individual success will move closer to the forefront.
"I think it's actually a little bit more than we thought," said Ashland head coach Jud Logan, whose teams each are ranked No. 12 in the country going into nationals, about the number of national qualifiers. "That's kind of what we had prepared everybody for. When we look at this group that's going, for the last five years, we've been leaving with one of our teams in consideration for a team title. Being 12th and 12th, we're not going to be able to get to enough points to approach that level.
"I'm hoping that this year, the kids can focus in a little bit more on their individual achievements, and then just let those points stack up as we get them and see where it all stacks up by the end of the meet."
In the women's shot put, senior Jamie Sindelar and junior Megan Tomei go in ranked 1-2 in the country. Sindelar's top mark is 16.57 meters/54-feet-4½, while Tomei, the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's Women's Field Athlete of the Year and the Conference Meet, has topped out at 16.00 meters/52-feet-6.
Tomei also is the No. 3-ranked women's athlete in the weight throw in Division II at 19.73 meters/64-feet-8¾.
"They just have to go out and do what they've been doing all season long," said Logan. "You're not going to go in defined by what you did in your last meet. That's why you have the competition. They've both been solid all year. I expect nothing less."
Ashland also has two runners and a jumper competing at nationals – senior Lauren Ellsworth in the 200-meter dash (15th-best time, 24.45 seconds), junior Rebecca Koval in the high jump (16th-best distance, 1.70 meters/5-feet-7) and sophomore Irene Skinner in the 400 dash (20th-best time, 55.35).
The men's side for AU is all throwers. Three Eagles boast the top seven distances this season in the weight throw – junior Jordan Crayon (second, 21.84 meters/71-feet-8), junior Bryn Campbell (fifth, 20.50 meters/67-feet-3¼) and sophomore Clayton Jury (seventh, 19.83 meters/65-feet-0¾).
"We think that if we compete up to our level, we think we can put three up on the podium," Logan said. "That's no more pressure on Clay Jury than he already puts on himself. I feel real confident about where those two juniors are, and then I also feel real confident about where Jury is."
Junior Jason Zahn will go at nationals in both the weight throw (14th, 18.68 meters/61-feet-3½) and the shot put (11th, 17.45 meters/57-feet-3).
"He wanted to do both this year, and he qualified for both," Logan said.
Also going for the Eagles in the men's shot are sophomore Elijah Talk (seventh, 17.81 meters/58-feet-5¼), who was third in the event at nationals in 2015, and senior Jared Whitcomb (16th, 17.11 meters/56-feet-1¾).