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Ohio’s Gaza Odunaiya throws a discus during the Cherry Blossom Track and Field Invitational on April 7. (FILE)

Track and Field: Ohio dominates the Cherry Blossom Invitational

Ohio coach Clay Calkins and his team learned Saturday that some things aren't in their control as the field at the Cherry Blossom Invitational was depleted because of potential inclement weather. 

Many teams felt the conditions were too risky and backed out of the meet. 

“We had some teams that retracted back when they saw the weather,” Calkins said. “We were missing Xavier, Wright State and Niagara — some key teams that would have made the competition a little better. That was probably the biggest hit where the weather affected the outcome of the meet.” 

Despite the conditions being unfriendly, Ohio made the most out of the situation it was dealt with while having a lot of fun doing so.

The Bobcats won nine events — three of which were uncontested — and swept first, second and third place in four separate events. 

Ohio still hosted a productive meet, which featured good competition in select events. Marshall, Shawnee State and Rio Grande provided good competition in some of the distance races and sprints. The throws, however, were the most competitive. 

Pitt, Dayton and Ohio squared off throughout the day in throwing duels; two events came down to the last rounds.

The Bobcats fell short of picking up a first-place finish. Dayton, however, won three of the four throwing events. 

“Dayton really brought a great crew down,” Calkins said. “It was good competition. We traded back and forth a lot.”  

Led by Jennifer Rossi, the Atlantic 10 indoor champion in the shot put and weight throw, Dayton won the shot put, javelin and discus, edging the Bobcats in all three events. 

“She’s a returning national qualifier so she’s the real deal,” Calkins said of Rossi. “That was exciting to see that level of competition. You bring that level of competition in, and it elevates everything.” 

Rossi defeated Ohio’s Jordan Porter in the shot and Emma Ryan in the discus. 

Porter placed second with her 14.63-meter (47.9 feet) launch, which came on her sixth throw. After three consecutive fouls, Porter finally landed a good throw. Rossi outdid Porter with her 14.89-meter (48.8 feet) hurl to win the event in the sixth round. Ohio's Abby Moore placed third with her first-attempt throw of 13.32 meters (43.7 feet). 

Gaza Odunaiya couldn’t muster up a solid throw in the discus until her fifth attempt. Late in the event, she threw for 41.43 meters (135.9 feet) to place third. Ryan also struggled early in the discus, fouling on her first two attempts before tossing 44.32 meters (145.4 feet) on her third attempt to take the lead. She returned on her fifth attempt to throw for 44.61 meters (146.3 feet). That throw was Ryan’s best of the day, but it was too little to catch Rossi, who pieced together a 45.81-meter (150.2 feet) throw on her fifth attempt to take the win.

In the javelin, Dayton’s Lillian Cook took the lead early. Her second fling of 45.49 meters (149.2 feet) won her the event. Ryan and Tajah Haley finished second and third for Ohio. Ryan’s best toss came on her final attempt. She threw 42.74 meters (140.2 feet). Haley threw for 40.90 meters (134.1 feet). 

Pitt’s Andin Fosam won the hammer throw with a 57.03-meter (187.1 feet) throw, and Rossi finished in second. Odunaiya finished third by throwing 50.99 meters (167.2 feet). Ryan’s heave of 49.62 meters (161.4 feet) gave her fourth place. Moore and Cassidy Cleland finished in fifth and sixth, respectively. 

Ohio didn’t leave the field without a win, though. 

The Bobcats swept the long jump and triple jump. Despite not being able to jump in the finals because of a strained quad, Anna Michael still managed to win the long jump with her jump of 5.08 meters. She finished with two jumps fewer than all of her opponents. 

Although he is uncertain of how serious her injury is, Calkins is hopeful Michael can return.

“Hopefully it’s not too severe of an injury,” he said. “Hopefully it’s just a mild strain. We’ll see what happens with that.” 

Keilah Causey was the lone competitor in the triple jump, but that didn’t stop her from delivering one of the best all-around performances of her career when she jumped for 10.96 meters.

“That was the second-best jump of her collegiate career in the triple jump so that’s great to see,” Calkins said. 

Elsewhere in the field, Tana Barrett placed second in the high jump with her 1.64-meter bound. Her teammate Atiya Spaulding tied for third. 

Ohio picked up its seven other wins for the day on the track, dominating the sprints and mid-distance races. In back-to-back-to-back races, Ohio finished first, second and third. 

The change in momentum began for the Bobcats in the 100-meter hurdles when Mya Hodge won the event in 14.95 seconds on her senior day. 

Then the Bobcats took control with three consecutive sweeps at the top.

First came the 400-meter dash. Ohio’s Marissa Handel ran out front the entire lap and never gave up her lead. She won the race in 58.44 seconds. Emily Deering, Ohio’s top 800-meter runner, ran one lap in 59.11 seconds, finishing right behind Handel. Melissa Barrett ran the race in 60.40 seconds for third. 

In the 100-meter dash, Thelma Agyekum’s nice start helped her secure first place in a time of 12.81 seconds. Hodge returned from the hurdles to place second in 12.88 seconds. Courtney Guiley placed third in 13.04 seconds. 

In the 800 meters, Ohio’s reign at the top continued. Josie Woosley ran two laps in 2:17.28 for first place. Kaitlyn Logan finished in second in 2:22.66, and Melissa Koziol placed third in 2:25.09.

Coach Calkins was impressed with what he saw. 

“Pretty happy with ... Josie Woosley in the 800-meters running a 2:17.28, which isn’t even her primary event,” he said. “That’s a solid time for her. There’s some neat things that happened in some of the upper sprints/mid-distance.” 

Lastly, Ohio swept the top in the 5,000 meters. Shannon Kilbane finished her race in 18:52.99. Emily Cass placed second in 18:55.21, and Mary Richardson placed third in 19:00.29. 

Alyssa Atkinson led the way in the 1,500 meters with a second-place finish in 4:52.70 after a tight race with Marshall’s Madeline Armstrong. Armstrong took a commanding lead with about 250 meters to go, and Atkinson couldn’t respond quickly enough. Ohio took seven of the top nine spots in that race. 

Bobcat freshman Abby Summers ran the 400-meter hurdles for the first time and walked away with a second-place finish in 1:14.44. It was the first time a Bobcat had competed in the event all season. 

The Bobcats had some fun in the relay events, fielding three relay squads that consisted of all distance runners. The 4x100 and 4x400 were both uncontested.

“We did it for two reasons: just to have a little fun with it and also for speed training,” Calkins explained of using the distance runners. "They drop down, get some (sprints) in and still have some fun with it. When the other teams pulled out, we didn’t have the other competition in those events.” 

Coach Calkins used Saturday’s meet as a gauge to see where his team sat three weeks into the outdoor season. Although there was an obvious lack of competition, Calkins feels the meet served its purpose. 

“We had our senior recognition, and that was great for the kids and their families,” he said. “I think it was a nice training mechanism to get ready for Charlotte. I take this meet with a grain of salt because of the conditions.” 


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