Ashland University head coach Jud Logan had the opportunity to sit and reflect on the 2015 Ashland Alumni Open early Saturday (April 25) evening.
He liked what he saw.
"I think I really like where our team is right now," Logan said. "If you're never satisfied, how do you enjoy the journey? I'm enjoying the journey. We have kids out there getting better, we have kids out there busting their butt."
Junior Elijha Owens won the men's 110-meter hurdles in 13.85, earning him automatic entry into the 2015 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Nationals (May 21-23 in Allendale, Mich.). That came on the second attempt – the first was negated by a glitch in the timing system.
"It was bittersweet, I guess," Owens said. "I feel as though my first race was a lot faster, but it felt good to bounce back and do it again."
"We felt good. We felt like it was our time," Thompkins said. "Been struggling all year with this, bad handoffs. But today, we felt like it was a good opportunity.
"In the past few years, we've been able to evolve into an all-around team – not just throwers, but we've got a lot of good hurdlers, middle distance, sprinters. That sets us up better for nationals. Points aren't just coming from throwers."
Freshman Elijah Talk also gained provisional entry into nationals with his seventh-place finish in the men's shot put invite at 16.43 meters, as did senior Sam Shaffer with his first-place showing in the men's javelin throw (61.34 meters).
"Gold star? Probably Sam Shaffer. That's probably not quite far enough to put him in the national meet, but it surely puts him in striking distance of doing what he needs to do."
Seniors Drew Windle (1:17.20) and Jacob Cook (1:22.19) finished 1-2 in the men's 600-meter dash invite, while sophomore Damani Barnes tied for top honors in the men's high jump at 2.00 meters. Senior Waquiem Comar was second in the men's 400-meter hurdles (53.94), Thompkins was second in the men's 100-meter dash (10.71), senior Jake Sussman took third in the men's 1,500-meter run in 3:59.87 and senior Sean Doty placed third in the men's pole vault (4.62 meters).
In the men's 4x400-meter relay, Owens, Witcher, Cook and Windle finished second in 3:22.05, while sophomore Austin Hill, senior Joshua Davis, freshman Ryan VanCauwenbergh and sophomore Aubrey Jordan took third in 3:23.59.
Senior Jennifer Foster turned in an automatic nationals mark in the women's high jump, winning the event with a top effort of 1.81 meters. Foster previously had provisionally qualified for nationals.
"It's definitely really nice to stay home today, being able to walk over here rather than a long car ride," Foster said. "The day went really good. I think everyone's just striving off of each other's success, and it's really just helping the team as a whole."
Senior Shatora Lewis won the women's shot put (13.80 meters). Freshman Irene Skinner took top honors in the women's 400-meter dash, crossing the finish line in 56.61, and was third in the women's 200-meter dash in 26.06.
"I felt pretty good about everything, was a little nervous at the beginning," Skinner said, "but my teammates helped me through it all. (My teammates told me) to have fun with it, because your friends and family are going to be here supporting you."
Senior Jennifer Bjelac was second in the women's long jump with a top mark of 5.58 meters. Junior Emma Daugherty (11:48.19) and sophomore Cortney Haubert (11:57.94) finished 1-2 in the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase, and junior Meghan Cunningham was second in the women's pole vault (3.50 meters).
Junior Jamie Sindelar (15.50 meters in women's shot put invite), senior Anna Mion (4:45.73 in the women's 1,500-meter run) and freshman Haley Gregory (14.49 in the women's 100-meter hurdles) took third in their respective events. The women's 4x100-meter relay team of freshman Hannah Bartlome, sophomores Marlecia Holston and Shelby Jordan and junior Abby Strock also placed third (49.71).
In the women's 4x400-meter relay, senior Mallory Balmert, sophomore Jackie Genetin, junior Mikaela Bush and sophomore Austin Borton was second in 4:01.49, while junior Abby Strock, sophomore Tiarra Kick, freshman Taylor Looby and senior Joyce Badertscher was third in 4:05.10.
Late on Friday (April 24), senior Isaac Potes competed in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 49th Annual Hillsdale College Gina Relays, and finished fifth with a provisional-improving time of 9:10.04.
"As long as I'm here and I'm doing the job that I'm supposed to do, people are always going to talk about the throws," Logan said. "When I fail to do my job is when that's all they're talking about. I want to have consistency across the board."
The AU men's and women's outdoor track and field teams will compete at the 2015 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships on Wednesday (April 29) through Friday (May 1).
"We're coming from a lot of directions," Logan said. "I know that we're going to go out and do the best we can and see where that ends up taking us."