On Thursday (Nov. 29) night, Ashland University's men's outdoor track and field team will be honored for its second-place NCAA Division II nationals finish, at halftime of the Eagle men's basketball game at Kates Gymnasium.
On Saturday (Dec. 1) afternoon, it will be time to turn the page, as the 2018-19 indoor track and field season for the Eagle men and women will begin at noon at the Tiffin Alumni Open.
Ashland head coach Jud Logan has spoken consistently about wanting his programs to be track programs, not just throws programs. That time seems to be now, particularly on the men's side.
"If I would give a gold star to the fall, that would go to Trevor Bassitt," Logan said of the sophomore sprinter/hurdler. "The strides that he has made in terms of physical maturity, being a leader, expanding the scope of where he may be able to help us, other than the 60 hurdles and the relay, maybe in the open 400, right on (senior) Myles' (Pringle) heels. That is a bold statement."
Of course, Pringle returns for his senior season, bringing with him five D-II national championships and 14 D-II All-American citations.
"Myles has been leading from the front," said Logan. "He's been way more vocal this year than in past years, so that's been really good to see."
Along with Pringle and Bassitt, the sprinters group includes two more national champions – sophomores Channing Phillips and T.J. Elliott – along with two more key sophomores in indoor All-American Brenden Archer and Kainnan Ramsey. Add to that group freshmen Jeavhon Jackson and Brayden Chaney, and the phrase "embarrassment of riches" certainly applies.
"You start to stack that with the returning kids…all those guys are getting the experience of what it's like," Logan said.
Sophomore Garrick Manning will continue to be a multi athlete in the indoor season, but will focus on the pole vault and hurdles outdoors, and sophomore Jared Ryder is back to do multis after missing last season due to injury.
Then, there is the potential for a nationals-bound men's distance medley relay. An improved cross country group, led by senior Tyler Sievert, junior Kyle Shively, and sophomores Ian Johnson and Nathaniel Redden, makes a nationals-quality DMR a possibility.
Ashland's men, of course, will feature a strong throws group, paced by junior All-Americans Alex Hill and Nick Zak, as well as sophomores Brent Fairbanks and David Amstutz, seniors Jim Toth and Stephen Pop, and junior Jake Glass.
"In the throws, I would say Jim Toth has been the gold star of the fall," Logan said. "We knew it was just a matter of time that he would show out. Right now, he really wants to be a part of the 35-pound weight team."
For the Eagle women, the 2018-19 indoor and outdoor season is the one Logan has been pointing toward to where the team has the opportunity to get back to a top-10 nationals placement for the first time since 2015.
One of the biggest reasons for optimism is a throws group which is unprecedentedly features eight standouts in seniors Natalie Helenthal and Mackenzie Leigh, sophomore Gianna DiPippo, and redshirt freshmen Lindsay Baker, Taylor Kroll, Carroll Pauley, Makayla Pop and Elizabeth Weimer.
"We're pulling five redshirts on the women's side, and that group is led by Lindsay Baker," said Logan. "You don't make a U.S. national team and go represent the United States over in Finland at the junior worlds, and not be recognized as one of the top throwers in the country this year. She's had a magnificent fall build-up.
"We're strong there."
Ashland's women have depth in various events, and most of it is young depth – junior jumper Ellie Jindra, junior sprinter Gariana Bercheni, sophomore sprinters Maddi Yingst and Rachel Miller, senior sprinter Samantha Duale, junior pole vaulter Amber Otermat and junior jumper/mulit athlete Paula Wollenslegel.