Ashland University's track and field program will send 13 athletes to Charlotte, N.C., for the 2018 NCAA Division II Outdoor Championships, on Thursday-Saturday (May 24-26).
The Eagle men have been knocking on the door of an outdoor national championship for the last five seasons, finishing no worse than third four times. With eight athletes competing, including junior Myles Pringle, who is going for a fourth consecutive national title in the men's 400-meter dash, what is the team expectation for this week?
"We've been bouncing back around between 11th and ninth and 10th," Ashland head coach Jud Logan of the national rankings. "I look at this way. Being a top-10 team outdoors…outdoors has always been a different animal from indoors. This is one of the toughest springs I can remember in Ashland outdoor history. We're peaking at the right time, but we thought we were going to have 12 or 13, not eight.
"We go with the elite eight we have, and we're going to have to maximize every opportunity. We've got great hopes in the 4x4. We hope that Myles is feeling springy in the high jump."
Pringle will compete in four events at nationals – the 200 dash, 400 dash, 4x4 relay and high jump.
"We need Superman to be Superman," Logan said.
Senior Elijah Talk will end his Eagle career with a shot at a national title in the men's shot put. Last year outdoors, he finished third nationally.
"You throw out wherever Elijah is ranked," said Logan. "He is just the ultimate gameday competitor."
After Pringle and Talk, the rest of the AU men's field is made up of first- and second-year performers – freshman Trevor Bassitt (110 hurdles and 4x4), freshman Brent Fairbanks (hammer throw), sophomore Alex Hill (discus throw and hammer throw), sophomore Nick Zak (hammer throw), and freshmen T.J. Elliott and Channing Phillips (4x4).
"The future is bright, but I'm living in the now," Logan said. "If we get some of the points that weren't expected, we may move up there. We definitely have a goal of finishing in the top 10."
On the women's side, senior Megan Tomei is rounding out her Eagle career in the shot put and hammer throw, juniors Natalie Helenthal and Mackenzie Leigh join Tomei in the hammer, and youth is served with sophomores Ellie Jindra (high jump) and Gariana Bercheni (200 dash).
"We're excited that Ellie's going to get that experience, and we're excited that Gariana has come on like gangbusters," Logan said. "Mackenzie and Natalie have shown what they are capable of indoors, and both of them have been having the practices of their life the last two weeks.
"Megan's the seasoned vet. She's got some things left on her plate of goals that she'd like to accomplish. What a great comeback story she's been. She's in a position where she's going to contend for that national title in the shot put. That would be icing on the cake."
Nationals will be at the Irwin Belk Complex, and hosted by Johnson C. Smith University.
2018 ASHLAND UNIVERSITY OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD NATIONALS PARTICIPANTS, BY DAY AND TIME
Thursday, May 24
5:40 p.m. – Men's 400 dash prelims – Myles Pringle, junior
Friday, May 25
3:30 p.m. – Men's high jump finals – Pringle
4 p.m. – Men's discus throw finals – Hill
5:35 p.m. – Men's 200 dash prelims – Pringle
5:45 p.m. – Women's high jump finals – Ellie Jindra, sophomore
5:50 p.m. – Women's 200 dash prelims – Gariana Bercheni, sophomore
6:40 p.m. – Men's 110 hurdles prelims – Trevor Bassitt, freshman
Saturday, May 26
11:15 a.m. – Women's shot put finals – Tomei
3:40 p.m. – Men's shot put finals – Elijah Talk, senior
4:05 p.m. (if qualify) – Men's 110 hurdles finals – Bassitt
4:25 p.m. (if qualify) – Men's 400 dash finals – Pringle
5:50 p.m. (if qualify) – Men's 200 dash finals – Pringle
6 p.m. (if qualify) – Women's 200 dash finals – Bercheni
7 p.m. (if qualify) – Men's 4x400 relay finals – Pringle/Bassitt/Elliott/Phillips