At the tail end of their Bobcat careers, a duo of decorated distance runners is passing off the baton, in the figurative sense, to a group of freshmen.
After a two-meet hiatus, the distance runners are ready to race in the All-Ohio Outdoor Championships, which begin today at Gettler Stadium in Cincinnati. Coach Clay Calkins said he is happy to utilize the distance runners again.
“When we have them back on the table and in the mix, the potential for them to score points is always there,” Calkins said. “That’s going to be great having those top five ladies back.”
Calkins said distance runners would have no trouble getting back into competition because they have been training like they would for a meet.
“They’re training through (meets), so they’re never on break,” Calkins said.
It is a strategy to try and get the runners performing at their peaks when competing in the big meets like the All-Ohio Outdoor Championships or the Mid-American Conference Championships, Calkins said.
He added that not only is it about competing at a high level, but competing to get marks that qualify athletes for the first round of NCAA Regionals.
With Annie Beecham and Kari Summers leading the way, other distance runners are gaining recognition. Freshmen Juli Accurso and Emily Pifer are competing at high levels, Calkins said.
“They’re doing things that Summers and Beecham did when they were freshmen,” Calkins said.
Summers and Beecham are leaders on and off the track, and both Accurso and Pifer said they enjoyed meeting the older duo upon their first visits to the university.
“Being around them is the best,” Accurso said. “They’re breaking records, so our goal is to break those records.”
Pifer said being around Beecham and Summers changed the way she approached running. She said they are her role models in everything and have impacted her more than anyone she has met through running.
Calkins, however, did not want to limit the recognition to just a couple of athletes. Allison Stillwell and Melissa Thompson are in the same breath as far as distance events are concerned.
The success of this core group has set the pace for the rest of the team.
“(Ashley) Waddington ran a great 5k in our home meet, and that bodes well for us moving through the remainder of this season,” Calkins said. “The distance events are moving in the right direction.”