The 2018-19 indoor track and field season started on Dec. 1.
More than three months later, the time has come to see how all the time and effort for Ashland University's men's and women's indoor track and field teams will manifest itself. Thirteen Eagles will compete at the 2019 NCAA Division II Indoor Championships on Friday and Saturday (March 8-9) at Pittsburg State in Kansas.
"For us, it tends to come back to, the strength of the weight throw is pretty exciting," said Ashland associate head coach Ernie Clark. "No matter what they can do, we know they can do big things."
On the men's side, the No. 2-ranked Eagles will send nine to nationals, and the majority of those athletes are among the best in D-II so far this season. Senior Myles Pringle, a five-time national champion competing in his final indoor nationals, is the No. 1 seed in the 400-meter dash and the No. 2 seed in the high jump.
Three Ashland men's weight throwers – sophomore Brent Fairbanks (No. 1) and juniors Alex Hill and Nick Zak (Nos. 3 and 4, respectively) – are three of the top four seeds at nationals. And sophomore Trevor Bassitt is tied for the second-best seed time in the 60 hurdles.
Showing off the depth of the Ashland men's squad, Bassitt and sophomore Channing Phillips are looking to be factors in the 400 dash, senior Jim Toth is attempting the same in the weight throw, and the quartet of Pringle, Phillips, freshman Brayden Chaney and junior Paul Murray will look to cap nationals with a top placement in the 4x400 relay.
"Trevor has become a national factor," Clark said. "Of course, Myles is a national factor. The relay has been at this level before with success.
"There's an excitement, but there's a little more expectation to go do it. You deal a little bit with that added pressure, but everyone is older. Now, we're dealing with veterans."
The No. 8-ranked Ashland women will have a small team in terms of athletes (four), but all of those Eagles have national championship potential.
Redshirt freshman Lindsay Baker has been the top-ranked shot putter in the nation all season, seniors Natalie Helenthal (third) and Mackenzie Leigh (10th) both are ranked in the top 10 in the weight throw going into nationals, and junior Ellie Jindra has quickly risen late in the season to be the No. 3 seed in the high jump.
"It's pretty exciting to see that level," Clark said. "Now, it just a matter of whether they can do that, and I think our entire coaching staff was saying they are primed and ready. In the future, we are looking forward to adding to that group."
Baker also will compete in the weight throw, giving Ashland three athletes of the 17 competing in the event.
At indoor nationals, Ashland's men have finished in the top 10 in D-II each of the last 14 years, including second-place finishes in 2011, 2013 and 2017, while the Eagle women are looking to move back into the top 10 for the first time since a tied-for-third-place showing in 2015.
2019 ASHLAND UNIVERSITY NCAA DIVISION II INDOOR TRACK NATIONALS SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
- March 8, 2:25 p.m. – women's weight throw (Helenthal, Leigh, Baker)
- March 8, 2:45 p.m. – men's 60 hurdles prelims (Bassitt)
- March 8, 3:40 p.m. – men's high jump (Pringle)
- March 8, 4:20 p.m. – men's 400 dash prelims (Bassitt, Phillips, Pringle)
- March 8, 4:55 p.m. – men's weight throw (Fairbanks, Hill, Zak, Toth)
- March 9, 2:30 p.m. – women's shot put (Baker)
- March 9, 3:30 p.m. – women's high jump (Jindra)
- March 9, 5:10 p.m. – men's 60 hurdles finals (Bassitt, if qualify)
- March 9, 6:10 p.m. – men's 400 dash finals (Bassitt, Phillips, Pringle, if qualify)
- March 9, 8 p.m. – men's 4x400 relay (Phillips/Pringle/Chaney/Murray)