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Abby Miller about to cross the finish line during the womens 5,000M during Ohio's Cherry Blossom invitational on Saturday (BLAKE NISSEN | FILE)

Track & Field: Distance runners provide spark in Youngstown as Bobcats prep for Thundering Herd Invitational

Youngstown State’s Watson and Tressel Training Site played as the host for the anticipated return of Ohio’s distance runners to the track. 

No distance events were fielded in Ohio’s first dual of the season, an 82-28 loss at Marshall in December. With the distance runners back on the roster in Youngstown, they provided a significant spark that their team desperately needed.  

Ohio was able to conjure up eight top-ten performances at the YSU Invitational last Friday in a meet that featured over 1,200 student-athletes from 27 schools in a scattered Division I-III landscape. 

The bulk of the Bobcats’ success came from the distance and field events led by an outstanding run from sophomore Tiffany Hill in the 5,000-meters. Hill’s time of 18:16.87 secured her second-place overall. She was the highest finisher for the Bobcats.

The success for the Bobcats in the longer distances didn’t end at Hill. Her counterpart, Melissa Koziol, another sophomore, finished just over a minute behind in 13th. In the mile, upperclassmen Josie Woosley and Tara Tollett finished 18th and 20th. 

Three of the four Bobcats competing in the 3,000-meter run would break into the top 20. Abby Miller was the highest placer, pulling in fifth-place honors in a time of 10:18.33. Alyssa Atkinson finished in 8th while Hailey Bowes took 15th. 

Ohio’s steady improvement from Marshall in the field events was notable. A 17.35 meter (56.9 feet) toss would propel Gaza Odunaiya to sixth in the weight throw. Freshman Abby Moore tallied behind in ninth and teammate Cassidy Cleland concluded in 18th.

Although her throws didn’t measure out to be as lofty as they were in the first meet of the season, Jordan Porter impressed once again in the shot put. She casted a 14.24 meter (46.7 feet) put to place fourth in a 65-competitor deep field. Moore returned from the weight throw to finish in 16th in the shot. Tarjah Hayley rounded out placing for the Bobcats in 18th. 

Tana Barrett debuted her season in the high jump with a spring of 1.56 meters (5.11 feet) to tie for 7th. Her ally Atiya Spaulding tied for 11th with her jump. Emily Deering and Marissa Handel finished in 18th and 21st in the largest-contested event, the 400-meter dash. In the next race up the ladder, the 800-meter run, Kaitlyn Logan finished in 23rd and Melissa Barrett completed the event in 28th. 

Following an extremely subpar showing to begin the season, Ohio altered its 4x400-meter relay lineups. Handel and Erin Stewart would return to the Ohio “A” squad to be joined by Deering and Thelma Agyekum. The four were able to shave 13 seconds off of their team’s time back in December. The performance would secure a 13th-place finish alongside 28 other relay teams.

Ohio came out of the dual portion of the meet with a hopeful 2-3 record. Ohio beat West Virginia and Robert Morris but fell to Pittsburgh, Duquesne, and host Youngstown State. Its highest point total of the day was eclipsed the 70-mark at 71.00 points. 

There were many positive signs for Ohio in Youngstown, despite not placing in any of the sprints. It will look to carry its momentum back to Marshall’s Chris Cline Indoor Athletic Complex, where it’ll be going up against 12 other schools this weekend and a Mid-American Conference opponent in Bowling Green. This time around, the meet features an all-Division I field.

The fourth annual Thundering Herd Invitational at Ohio’s home away from home is a two-day event. Field event action will begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday evening followed by running events kicking off at 8:30 p.m. Field events on Saturday will begin two hours prior to the start of running events, at 10:00 a.m. 


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