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Ohio's Abby Summers prepares to run the 400m hurdles at the Cherry Blossom Invitational on April 7, 2018.

Track & Field: Ohio positions itself well for the postseason on final weekend of regular season

Ohio welcomed a tiny field for the Ohio Open to wrap up its regular season Friday. It was its final meet in preparation for this weekend’s anticipated Mid-American Conference Championships. 

The meet came at a busy time of the year for track and field teams. With conference meets and the postseason on the horizon, and add in the factors of finals and graduation, it can be tough to maintain any sort of balance. 

“I think everyone’s stressed to the max,” Ohio coach Clay Calkins said. “You’re at the end of finals week. I know everyone has got their finals done but at the same time, they haven’t even had time to take a deep breath yet. The lack of sleep, the eating habits have probably been terrible this week. There’s several things that work against you.” 

Despite the distractions and fatigue, Ohio won 13 of the 14 events it competed in at Goldsberry Track. It swept the throwing, sprint and mid-distance events. 

Junior Thelma Agyekum ran a personal record in the 100-meter dash, winning in 12.35 seconds. 

Marissa Handel pulled off the sprint double, capturing victories in both the 200 meters and 400 meters. She won the 200 meters in a PR time of 25.38 seconds and the 400 meters in 58.42 seconds. 

The Bobcats fielded the only two athletes in each of the 800-meter and 5,000-meter races. 

Freshmen Tate Dawson and Meredith Elstun ran a tight 800-meter race to the finish line. Dawson barely edged Elstun’s time of 2:46.45, winning in 2:46.43. The 5,000 meters was an even tighter race, resulting in a tie between the two Bobcats competing. Christina Seas and Mary Richardson ran the race stride for stride, crossing the line together for first in a time of 20:05.26. 

No relay races were contested at the meet. 

Tajah Haley had a great day of conference preparation both on the track and in the field. The sophomore will be Ohio’s lone combined event athlete at the MAC Championships next weekend. There was a lot of pressure on her to go out and perform at a high level in multiple events on Friday to prepare for the rigorous format the heptathlon brings. She went out and did that.

Haley won the 100-meter hurdles in a new PR of 14.71 seconds. She also broke through with career-bests in the high jump and the javelin. In the javelin, she climbed to fifth in the MAC rankings with her throw of 43.30 meters (142.1 feet). 

“Tajah did well in the high jump today, ran a solid hurdle race and threw real well in the javelin,” Calkins said. “That’s exciting moving into the conference (meet). That’s a morale booster for her.” 

Haley wasn't the only Bobcat to strengthen her resume at the Ohio Open. Emma Ryan moved from third to first overall in the MAC javelin rankings with her performance.

Ryan threw for 48.04 meters (157.7 meet) to pick up the win. Her toss is the best throw to date in the MAC this season. She also moves up to 19th on the NCAA East Region qualifying list with that throw. 

That puts her in favorable position to qualify for the postseason because an athlete only has to be in the top 48 in the region in their declared event to secure a bid to the preliminary rounds. She was sitting on the bubble, just outside the top 48 in the javelin, before Friday.

Calkins noted that’s one of the goals of these meets — to qualify athletes for the NCAA rounds, going beyond the MAC Championships and looking into the bigger picture. 

“Either you qualify for the MACs or if you already know you’re qualified for the MACs, you try to better your mark and gain some confidence,” Calkins said. “Then, if you’re on the brink of the NCAA first round, it’s nice to hit it at this meet. That way you can (fully) concentrate on the MAC Championships.” 

Hosting a meet like the Ohio Open towards the end of the season gives the Bobcats a calming atmosphere to either relax in or better themselves in. Ohio will need Ryan competing at her maximum ability come the MAC Championships at the end of the week so it’s good that she no longer has to worry about qualifying for NCAAs. 

“Sometimes pressing too hard in any event can be a detriment, especially in the throws,” Calkins said. “If you’re pressing too hard, blowing through your plant, going too fast, really trying to hit a big mark — sometimes that can be detrimental.”

Ohio freshman Sophie Yantko put herself in a great spot to qualify for the MAC meet with a new PR toss of 35.30 meters (115.10 feet) in the javelin. She sits in 19th in the current conference rankings. 

Ohio’s Gaza Odunaiya once again doubled up on wins, posting first-place finishes in the discus and hammer throw. She hurled the hammer for a lifetime-best toss of 56.54 meters (185.6 feet). That throw put her at fifth in the MAC and 58th on the NCAA East Region qualifying list. She flung the discus for a winning mark of 46.12 meters (151.4 feet).

Cassidy Cleland moved two spots up to 18th in the MAC hammer throw rankings with her showing Friday afternoon. She placed third behind her teammate, Abby Moore, with a PR launch of 48.92 meters (160.6 feet). Moore remained in 12th on the MAC list in the event.

Senior Jordan Porter won the shot put with her put of 15.48 meters (50.9 feet). Porter has already qualified for the MAC meet and ranks 35th on the NCAA East Region qualifying list in the shot.

Keilah Causey won the long jump and triple jump. She bested teammate Anna Michael in the long jump with her leap of 4.89 meters (16 feet). 

Freshman Jessica Liechty was the victor in the high jump, finishing in first over Haley. 

The Bobcats desperately needed a meet like this to gain the proper amount of focus heading into the MAC Championships. Now, they just have to wait and see who ultimately qualified for the conference meet and who will be watching the meet from home. 


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