Set-up and teardown are part of every athletic contest and every concert. In their heyday, KISS and Electric Light Orchestra spent a lot of time and money building an intricate show for their fans. Everything had to be just right or some colonel in the KISS army would know something was out of whack.
Thursday (May 2) at AU's Ferguson Field, the AU track and field team did about as good a job of set-up as could be imagined. Everything fell into place for the Eagles. The idea was to have a solid day on Thursday and have a chance to compete for a GLIAC championship on Friday. To do that, the AU men will have to tear down defending champion Grand Valley State, a power across the board and across the nation, in track and field.
"It's going to be like a NASCAR race," said AU head coach Jud Logan about Friday's final day. "It's going to be wall-to-wall excitement."
Don't let the standings fool you. Ashland , the national runner-up indoors and Grand Valley have a chance to duke it out from start to finish on the final day. Right now, Tiffin leads the 13-team men's field with 59 points and GVSU is second with 49. Lake Erie (30) sits in third place and Malone (27) is fourth. AU is eighth with 16 points.
However, look at this lineup for Friday. The AU men have three runners in the finals of the 100, three in the finals of the 200, three in the finals of the 400 and three in the finals of the 800. The Eagles' ultra-sound relays – the 4X1 and the 4X4 – will run on Friday and as always, there are points to be had in the throws.
"We didn't have a misstep," said Logan. "We needed to come out today. I'm so proud of the effort of our kids. Our kids are talking about defending their turf. Is that enough to beat GV, is that reality? We'll find out."
The AU women are second in a field of 14 teams. Grand Valley State leads with 77 points and the Eagles are next in line with 47. Hillsdale (24) is third and Findlay (23) is fourth.
The biggest story of the day came on the women's side of the ledger. AU senior Katie Nageotte (Olmsted Falls, Ohio) won the GLIAC championship and set an NCAA Division II record of 14-6.75 in the pole vault. Nageotte has been flirting with this for several weeks now. Friday, in excellent conditions at home, she reached the top of the mountain.
"When you start talking about an overview of the day, you start with Katie Nageotte," Logan said. "I think she had just won a conference championship, she had a lot of energy and she was at home."
Getting back to the men, in the 100, AU senior Joe Horn (Waynesfield, Ohio/Waynesfield-Goshen) had the best time in the preliminaries – 10.54. His teammate, DeAndre Davis (Clinton Township, Mich./Chippewa Valley), had the third best time (10.76). They will be joined in the f inals by freshman Eric Thompkins (Canton, Ohio/South), who posted a time of 10.81 to get the eighth and final spot in the finals.
In the 200, Horn had the best time (21.15) and junior Keith Cleveland (Cleveland, Ohio/Shaker Heights) was second (21.24). Thompkins clocked in at 21.56 to wrap up a berth in Friday's race.
At just about every race this spring, the 400 has been owned by the Eagles and that was true on Thursday. The top three times in the preliminaries belonged to AU runners. Junior Jacob Cook (Lima, Ohio/Allen East) had the best time (47.28) and Cleveland was second (47.39). Senior Cory Lamar (Wakeman, Ohio/Firelands) was third (47.51).
The 800 generated a lot of excitement because AU runners Drew Windle (New Albany, Ohio) and Tom Scott (Lima, Ohio/Shawnee) are ranked first and second in the country. Thursday, Windle was second (1:53.21) and Scott was third (1:53.85). The best time in the field belonged to Grand Valley State's Ethan Barnes (1:51.4). Junior Zaan Janse (Wellington, New Zealand) will be in the final thanks to a time of 1:54.25.
In the men's 110 hurdles prelims, sophomore Elijha Owens (Shaker Heights, Ohio) had the best time of the day (14.28). He'll be joined in the finals by sophomore Waquiem Comar (Twinsburg, Ohio) who finished in 14:43 on Thursday. That duo also made their presence felt in the prelimis of the 400 hurdles. Comar was second in that event and Owens was third.
AU's 4X1 had the best time of the day – 40.43. That quartet will run in Friday's final. On Thursday, the relay's time of 40.43 bettered the GLIAC record of 40.81 set a year ago.
The Eagles had a good day in the field events. In the men's discus, Tiffin's Macklin Tudor won the GLIAC championship with ease – he stretched the tape to 189-4. AU junior Kyle Steinhauser (Sandusky, Ohio/Perkins) finished third (173-1). With Thursday's throw he moved from 19th to 11th on the NCAA list.
"I cut back a little bit on my lifting," said Steinhauser, when asked for an explanation on his move forward.
Junior Chris Powell (Oak Forest, Ill.) was fourth in the discus (166-5).
In the heptathlon, Ashland claimed the top two spots. Junior Macy Caldwell (Port Clinton, Ohio) won the conference crown with 4947 points and senior Kendra Bassitt (Limar, Ohio/Bluffton) was second (4923). Findlay's Pam Showman was third (4865) and AU sophomore Jennifer Bjelac (Newton Falls, Ohio) was fourth with 4756 points.
Thursday's final event was the men's 10K. That championship final didn't start until shortly after 8 p.m., and it was a battle down to the wire, Grand Valley State's Josh Moskalewski taking the lead from Hillsdale's Joshua Mirth late in the race to win in 30:39.61. Mirth's time was 40:42.21.
That kind of excitement should be the standard on Friday.
"Every race on the track will be a championship race," reminded Logan. "Today was a long day. If we have any advantage, it was that our kids could go back to their dorms and get off their feet. We'll see if we take advantage of that."
On Friday, the field events begin at 10:45 a.m., with the men's shot put and the women's hammer throw. The running events begin at 12:10 p.m.