Reloading Eagles Set For 2015-16 Indoor Season

Mikaela Bush
Mikaela Bush

The 2015-16 Ashland University indoor track and field season will take place without 11 athletes who earned All-American honors – either indoors, outdoors or both – in 2014-15.

Where the Eagles track and field program is concerned, it's not rebuilding, it's reloading. No one is going to shed a tear for AU. Nor does 11th-year head coach Jud Logan expect anyone to.

"It's certainly not grim, and no one's going to buy that," Logan said. "The caveat is that we've got some amazing athletes that are still on this team. If you have a calculator, it's pretty easy to see how many (national) points left this program.

"In my 22 years of coaching, it's the biggest senior class that's ever left, but you don't even look at it that way. It's the biggest amount of NCAA points that went out the door. We're looking for those heroes."

Six of those "heroes" who return are 2014-15 All-Americans – three men and three women. On the men's side, junior Jordan Crayon was sixth nationally outdoors in the hammer throw, sophomore Elijah Talk was third nationally indoors in the shot put and junior Jason Zahn took second nationally outdoors in the discus.

On the women's side, senior Jamie Sindelar, the 2014-15 Ashland University Female Student-Athlete of the Year, returns after placing second indoors in the shot put in Division II, junior Megan Tomei is back after a third-place national finish indoors in the shot put and sophomore Irene Skinner (2015 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference indoor women's Running Freshman of the Year) paces the returning sprinters following an eighth-place nationals finish indoors in the 400-meter dash.

Joining Crayon, Talk and Zahn in a talented men's throws group are junior Bryn Campbell and sophomore Clayton Jury, both of whom have nationals experience.

"That group of guys are working really hard to get to the next level," Logan said, "and that is to kind of be the ones that will be the rock-solid points for us."

The men's distance group is led by senior David Knack, an All-GLIAC cross country performer in the fall.

"We think he's got a chance to be an NCAA scorer in that 5K, indoors and outdoors, so we're excited about him," said Logan.

In the sprints, the Eagles are buoyed by senior Eric Thompkins' first indoor season not coming off a football campaign, as well as senior Brandon Freeman and the presence of freshman Myles Pringle.

"He has untapped ability, and we just don't know exactly where we're going to use him," Logan said of Pringle. "We just know that whether it's the high jump, the 400, the long jump, the 4x1, the 4x4, he's that versatile athlete that we probably haven't seen since Joe Horn."

Junior Damani Barnes, coming off a breakout 2014-15 season, leads a men's jumps group which includes fellow junior William Robinson, who Logan said is on the doorstep of bigger things.

Sophomore Andrew Nageotte is following in strong family tradition in the pole vault, while the men's team will be strengthened with both junior Jamie Hence and freshman Devin Snowden coming over from football.

Sophomore Jim Toth, a transfer from Pittsburgh, will redshirt and add to the men's throws group beginning in 2016-17.

In women's throws, Sindelar is a national title contender in the shot put, and Tomei will compete in the both the shot and the weight throw. Joining them will be a trio of redshirt freshmen – Natalie Helenthal, Mackenzie Leigh and Kala Strong.

Logan is looking forward to a potentially-strong women's distance medley relay which could feature seniors Jillian Bajaksouzian, Anna Mion, Mikaela Bush and Marissa Sinko – all coming off cross country seasons.

Another potential member of the DMR is senior Lauren Ellsworth, a transfer sprinter from Shippensburg.

"She's a girl that can help our 4x1, our 4x4, potentially a leg on the DMR," Logan said. "Those are the people that have always been the unsung heroes of our program, the foundational type of people. She's going to be a great addition to us."

Logan said senior Meghan Cunningham is looking to be a factor in the pole vault.

"We have so many bubble kids," Logan said. "It's not what they do in the first two meets. It's what they do in the four-week break that will determine how the second half of the season goes. This year, we don't have the horses to be able to make up for a couple kids who decided they didn't want to train over break.

"We're filling holes. That's going to take some time. It's not going to happen in a year. To say that you can just refill NCAA points in a year is not a very smart thing to say as a coach because of how competitive other programs are, and are getting."