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Ohio junior Zach Zimmerman leads a group of runners at Marshall University's Chris Cline Athletic Complex on Jan. 27, 2017. (FILE)

Track & Field: Ohio rides on its success in throwing and distance events, but struggles elsewhere loom

The Bobcats finished their indoor season Feb. 24th at the Mid-American Conference Championships in Bowling Green. At the meet, the Bobcats placed last in the team standings with 13 overall points and failed to better their performance as a group from last year. 

One of the goals for this team this season was to improve their overall team performance at the MAC Championships. Ohio coach Clay Calkins wants his team be progressing each year and specifically each time the MAC Championships come around. 

Ohio, however, was not able to improve its team standing this indoor season. 

“In the MAC Championships, we just fell short a little bit in the indoor season,” Calkins said. “We are going to try to make up that deficit in the outdoor season.” 

Regardless of the rough finish at the MAC Championships, there were some bright spots for the Bobcats. Junior Emily Deering had a breakthrough performance in the 800-meter, placing in fourth with a 2:12.24 time. The distance medley relay quartet placed fifth, despite a lack of experience running together. 

“Those were fantastic,” Calkins said of the events in which the Bobcats tallied points. “Points are tough to get at the MAC Championships.”

Deering has been progressing for a year and a half, but her breakthrough performance came at the perfect time. 

“Emily Deering’s been rock solid for us,” Calkins said. “(She) put points on the board for us in the outdoor season last year and now indoors. She just keeps moving her way through the ranks.” 

After losing its first and only dual meet of the season 82-28 at Marshall, Ohio began a gradual rebound as a team once its distance runners took to the track. 

At the Youngstown State Invitational, the distance runners provided a big boost for the Bobcats. Tiffany Hill was the highest finisher at the meet following a second-place showing in the 5,000-meter.

Both Ohio’s strengths and weaknesses as a team came to a forefront at the Thundering Herd Invitational a week later

The Bobcats scored 37.5 of their 39.5 total points in field events. The result showcased the depth of the Bobcats in the field, but it also highlighted their weaknesses on the track, specifically in the sprints. The other two points for the Bobcats in that meet came in the mile and 800-meter. 

The Bobcats improved on their performances on the track at the Marietta Alumni Open to begin a busy month of February, taking a break from the stiff Division I competition and going up against a slate of Division II and III schools. 

The Bobcats placed in the top ten 37 times at Marietta and recorded a season-best nine event wins. In events like the 55-meter dash, the Bobcats stepped up with four finishers in the top ten. Even though the results were good, the competition was relatively weak, and the Bobcats didn’t see the time improvements they were looking for. 

The Kent State National Qualifier and Buckeye Tune-Up were two good preparation meets for the MAC Championships. Alyssa Atkinson led Ohio at Kent State with a first-place result in the 5,000-meter. Ohio went on to record six top-five finishes against a much more competitive field. 

Gaza Odunaiya and Keilah Causey highlighted the day for the Bobcats at the Buckeye Tune-Up. They each recorded lifetime-bests in the weight throw and the triple jump, respectively, to place third. Odunaiya’s throw of 19.07 meters (62.5 feet) broke the school record. 

Odunaiya also placed for the Bobcats at the MAC Championships. She threw 18.97 meters (62 feet) to place seventh. Her throwing counterpart, Jordan Porter, placed seventh in the shot put with a put of 14.79 meters (48 feet). Those two were the only Bobcats, aside from Deering and the distance medley relay team, to place in Bowling Green. 

The Bobcats definitely showed some signs of improvement and progression throughout the course of the indoor season. The success in the throwing and distance events was noticeable. 

But there are still some areas they clearly need to improve in. Calkins is well aware of the struggles they must overcome. 

“In the years past, we’ve been a better outdoor team than indoor, and I hope that’s the case this year,” Calkins said. “Obviously, we need some improvements in all the event areas, but I think we can make an impact in short sprints and jumps, where we virtually had no impact indoors.” 


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