Ashland University's men's track and field team was predicted to finish 10th at the 2018 NCAA Division II Outdoor Championships by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) earlier this week.
The best way to better that prediction? Do what Eagle sophomore Nick Zak did on Day 1 on Thursday (May 24) in Charlotte, N.C.
Zak, ranked No. 13 in D-II in the men's hammer throw entering nationals, took fourth place in the event on Thursday with a top effort of 62.05 meters/203-feet-7 – a new personal collegiate best. All of this came after a foul called on Zak's second throw was overturned on appeal.
That, combined with sophomore Alex Hill's third-place finish at 62.76 meters/205-feet 11, gave the Eagle men 11 team points out of the gate. Those 11 points put Ashland's men in third place after three of 21 events. Grand Valley State is first (14), followed by Tiffin (12), for an all-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference top three.
Zak earns outdoor All-American honors for the first time, to go with his indoor weight-throw All-American citation as a freshman. For Hill, this also is his first outdoor All-American award following two indoor weight throw All-American efforts.
In the women's hammer throw, juniors Mackenzie Leigh and Natalie Helenthal each earned their first outdoor All-American awards, coming on the heels of both becoming indoor All-Americans for the first time earlier this year in the weight.
Leigh, ranked No. 8 in the country in the hammer going in, shattered her previous collegiate high-water mark in the hammer, placing fifth at 59.96 meters/196-feet-9. Her PR coming into nationals was 58.60 meters/192-feet-3.
Helenthal, the No. 14-ranked hammer thrower in D-II entering Thursday, also PRed, going from 57.43 meters/188-feet-5 to a sixth-place showing at 58.16 meters/190-feet-10.
Those two marked improvements allowed the AU women to begin nationals with seven team points, placing them 11th after four of 21 events (Azusa Pacific is first with 13).
Finishing off the day was junior Myles Pringle, who won the preliminaries of the men's 400-meter dash in 46.30 seconds. A three-time 400-meter national champ indoors and outdoors combined, Pringle will compete in the finals on Saturday (May 26) at 4:25 p.m.
Senior Megan Tomei placed 10th in the women's hammer, topping out at 55.09 meters/180-feet-9. Also in the men's hammer on Thursday, freshman Brent Fairbanks placed in 18th with a top mark of 53.40 meters/175-feet-2.
UP NEXT: Day 2 of the Championships on Friday (May 25), starting at 3:30 p.m.
REMAINING 2018 ASHLAND UNIVERSITY OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD NATIONALS PARTICIPANTS, BY DAY AND TIME
Friday, May 25
3:30 p.m. – Men's high jump finals – Myles Pringle, junior
4 p.m. – Men's discus throw finals – Alex Hill, sophomore
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 – Megan Tomei, senior
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. – 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