For the first time since 2013, Ashland University's men's and women's track and field teams will have the opportunity to play host to back-to-back home meets.
The first of those meets at the Dwight Schar Athletic Complex will be the ninth Ashland Alumni Open on Friday (April 27) and Saturday (April 28).
"We didn't get everything that we wanted to get done at Jesse Owens," said Ashland head coach Jud Logan. "That's just how things go this time of year, so we're still trying to put our relays together to put ourselves in a position to be strong.
"Looking forward now, the kids just have a buzz about being able to compete this weekend at home. We need to ride that wave a little bit."
Heading into the Alumni Open, the Eagle men are ranked No. 10 in NCAA Division II, and have nine marks which would qualify for 2018 NCAA Division II nationals, May 24-26 in Charlotte, N.C. The AU women have four marks which would make nationals if they were today.
As is custom, the hammer throw will take center stage on Friday. The men's elite hammer throw will feature former Eagles Jordan Crayon, Zac Ball and Daniel Roberts, as well as current Eagle sophomore Alex Hill, No. 3 in the country in the event so far in the spring of 2018.
"The men's hammer throw is extremely strong," Logan said. "The men's invite's going to be great, but the men's open…these guys are all NCAA qualifiers. We're really excited about that."
Ashland junior Mackenzie Leigh will be in the women's hammer elite category after earning her first Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Women's Field Athlete of the Week award. Leigh is No. 8 in D-II in the event.
"She's starting to really figure things out, and she's been working really hard," Logan said. "She has a big work load with her academics, she does some part-time work at a nursing home, she's doing an internship over in Wooster. She's the type of person that can figure it all out, and not give anyone less than her best effort. We're glad we're one of those."
Saturday's running events, on a faster track, can be key for those attempting to not only position themselves for 2018 GLIAC Championships (at home on May 2-4), but also attempting to improve national standing.
"For a lot of these kids, it's about conference seeding," said Logan. "You want to be in the fast lane, you want to get a good seed at conference."
Youngsters to watch on the women's side are sophomore Gariana Bercheni and freshmen Madeline Kreller and Maddi Yingst, while the men's side has the likes of freshmen Trevor Bassitt, Kainnan Ramsey, T.J. Elliott and Brenden Archer.
And, of course, there is junior Myles Pringle, who is the top-ranked men's 400-meter dash runner in the nation (45.57).
"We've got some work to do, but we also understand that the kids have a lot on their plate right now," Logan said.