It's a good time to be home for Ashland University's men's and women's outdoor track and field teams.
With the field for the 2016 NCAA Division II Championships to be posted on May 17, there are three weeks left for athletes to make their push to qualify for nationals, May 26-28 in Bradenton, Fla. The Eagle men and women will start that push on Friday (April 29) and Saturday (April 30) in the seventh Ashland Alumni Open.
"The fact that they get to sleep in their own bed, the fact that they know that there's a lot of alumni coming back has our kids really excited," said Ashland head coach Jud Logan. "Really, it's preparation for the GLIAC meet. Some of our kids are ready for some good performances, they're ready to defend their home turf, so that's where they're sitting."
Ashland's men and women will compete at the 2016 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships on May 4-6 in Big Rapids, Mich., then have a last-chance weekend on May 13-14. Coming into the Alumni Open (schedule - http://www.goashlandeagles.com/sports/track/2015-16/files/Ashland_Alumni_Open_Schedule_2016.pdf), the Eagles have racked up two automatic and 25 provisional marks for nationals.
"We just want to keep progressing and keep getting better, put the focus on GLIAC," Logan said. "We know how good Tiffin and Grand Valley are going to be (on the men's side). We know how good Grand Valley and Hillsdale are going to be on the women's side, along with Findlay. We want to do everything we can to have a great meet, and get as big of a party going to Florida as we possibly can."
The hammer throw will be Friday at 11 a.m., with the women's and men's followed by the women's invite and men's invite. Three of the top six Division II men's hammer throwers are Eagles – juniors Jordan Crayon (third, 66.88 meters/219-feet-5) and Bryn Campbell (fourth, 65.48 meters/214-feet-10), and sophomore Clayton Jury (sixth, 63.36 meters/207-feet-10). On the women's side, junior Megan Tomei is 13th in the country (56.10 meters/184-feet-1).
"He's (Campbell) really coming along. Clay Jury had another good meet there (at Ohio State)," Logan said. "I'm excited to see some of the redshirts who I haven't had a chance to see much this year outdoors, because they've been going to different meets."
On Saturday, both the AU men's and women's 4x100-meter relay teams will look to improve on their national standing. The women are ranked 26th in D-II at 46.76 seconds, and the men are 30th at 41.05. Ashland's men's 4x1 has won the Alumni Open each of the first six meets, while the AU women's 4x1 will look for an initial Alumni Open victory.
"I guess I'm probably most excited about the 4x1s," Logan said. "Both our men and our women's 4x1 are close to popping a time that can get them in the NCAA meet. That's always a bonus, because usually 4x1s don't have as many talented kids that can make it in an individual event, but they've got three or four that, if they can put those sticks together, can get a whole group of kids to maybe, potentially their first and only NCAA meet of their life."
On top of all that, there is senior thrower Jamie Sindelar, who still has the top women's shot put distance in the country at 16.47 meters/54-feet-0½. She has won four GLIAC Women's Field Athlete of the Week awards in 2015-16 – two indoors and two outdoors.
"Number one, we'd like to be national champion again, get that outdoor title," Logan said of Sindelar, who won the 2014 outdoor shot put national title as a sophomore. "She's won it once…she can do it again. We'd love it, if anybody beats her, it's her teammate (Tomei). We'd like to go 1-2 in the women's shot. We could potentially do that."
Among the Eagle alumni who are slated to return are Kelly Ash, Elijha Owens and Jordan Hoppel. All alumni in attendance will receive a free specially-designed T-shirt.