The end of January is coming, and there is a month from the start of the 2018 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships.
It's time for the student-athletes on Ashland University's men's and women's indoor track and field teams, ranked No. 3 and 14 in NCAA Division II, respectively, to make their moves. The latest opportunities for that will come Friday (Jan. 26) and Saturday (Jan. 27) at the Findlay Indoor Track & Field Classic & Elite Throws and Penn Nationals.
Twelve runners will be at Penn Nationals, while the remainder of the squad will be at Findlay.
One Eagle who made a move toward getting to 2018 D-II indoor nationals, March 9-10 at Pittsburg State, at last week's Youngstown State College Invitational was junior Brandon Sicurella. He who moved into the No. 13 spot among men's weight throwers with a top heave of 18.61 meters/61-feet-0¾.
"Lunch pail guy," said Ashland head coach Jud Logan. "Buffalo guy, blue-collar. Just a hard-working kid. Leads by example, by the way he trains. If you would ask, collectively, the entire throws group, if they could will a couple of centimeters to one guy on the team…it's Brandon Sicurella.
"We're awful proud of Brandon."
Also on the men's side, two 4x400-meter relay combinations have earned provisional times for nationals. At YSU, the quartet of freshmen Channing Phillips and Brenden Archer, sophomore Paul Murray and junior Myles Pringle finished the fourth-fastest D-II men's race so far this season at 3:14.22.
"We need to be better," Logan said. "There is podium potential for that group. And there's nobody in that group who isn't coming back next season. We've just got this huge pool of guys that are begging to be on that team."
Pringle is coming off his fifth career U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Men's Athlete of the Week award, and is No. 1 in the nation in the 200 dash (21.46 seconds), 400 dash (47.00 seconds) and the high jump (2.15 meters/7-feet-0½).
"You might have seen something like this in a combination of two people," said Logan. "When you think back to a Keith Cleveland and an Elijha Owens, you put those two guys together…we've certainly had people in these positions before, but for it to be one individual, to be so diverse...
"If Myles was in another program…he would be doing more than what he's doing now. I'm telling you, that within two weeks of training, he would be the No. 1 long jumper in the conference. If we put a kid with his stride length and his speed and his power output in the triple jump, he's probably be amongst the top five in the country."
The Eagle women made a significant jump in this week's national rankings, going from No. 25 in the preseason to No. 14.
"I don't know what we did exactly, but our women jumping 11 spots in the national ranking was exciting," Logan said. "When you talk about being a year away, and you know you've got some people redshirting right now that could flip that to a No. 8 or No. 9 ranking…we're right where we need to be."
Senior Marie Hammer is the No. 8-ranked D-II athlete in the pentathlon with 3,468 points, but Logan knows there is a lot of time for that to go one way or the other.
"She needs to improve on her score from Kent State," he said. "She's sitting pretty good right now, but there's a lot of girls, and she knows this, who haven't done one yet. It's early.
"What we'd like to just see is improvement. Marie's in a pretty good place right now."
Another senior, Hannah Bartlome, has topped out at 1.65 meters/5-feet-5 in the high jump so far in 2017-18 – a mere two-hundreths of a meter away from a provisional mark and a possible nationals appearance.
"I sat after we got done early yesterday, and I sat and watched (jumps and multis assistant coach) Abby (Majesky) work with the high jumpers for about 45 minutes, and I can see Bartlome really internalizing Abby's coaching, and I can see her confidence starting to build," Logan said. "This weekend, next weekend and Grand Valley, those three weeks are important."