Ohio will send the bulk of its team to Buffalo this weekend to compete at the 2018 Mid-American Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The MAC Championships will take place Thursday through Saturday at Buffalo’s UB Stadium.
The Bobcats will be represented in 14 of the 21 events. Ohio’s largest presence is in the throws and distance events. It has two athletes or more competing in each of the four throwing and four distance events.
“That’s where our investments are,” Ohio coach Clay Calkins said. “That’s where we focused in on. As a coaching staff, we really focused in on those areas to build those up and then build out from there.”
The Top 8 finishers in each event make it onto the podium and score points for their team at the MAC Championships.
With nine athletes positioned with a Top 10 seed heading into this weekend’s action, the Bobcats are expecting most of their points to come out of the distance races and throws.
“Hopefully we can put big points on the board in both of those event areas,” Calkins said. “We’re staged to do so.”
Ohio hopes to build off its momentum from last Friday after a huge qualifying performance at the Ohio Open. The Bobcats saw many personal records set on the field and in the track. The highlight of the meet came from redshirt senior thrower Emma Ryan.
Ryan shattered her season-best throw in the javelin with her toss of 48.04 meters (157.7 feet). With that throw, she enters the MAC Championships as the top seed in the javelin.
Ryan’s best challenger in the javelin is Kent State’s Vanessa Vodan. Her top mark this season just hit 45.00 meters (147.7 feet).
Other Bobcats competing in the javelin include Tajah Haley and newcomer Sophie Yantko. Haley is ranked fifth while Yantko is ranked 17th.
Haley is a strong competitor for the Bobcats in the heptathlon — the lone combined-event athlete Calkins is sending to the meet.
Calkins hopes events like the heptathlon can be areas where the Bobcats can steal points to boost their standing in the team race.
The Bobcats are represented by Gaza Odunaiya, Abby Moore and Cassidy Cleland in the hammer throw. Odunaiya is ranked fifth in the event.
Cleland will take Ryan’s spot as the third-ranked Bobcat in the event after Ryan opted to stick to the discus and javelin for her final MAC Championships.
Two throwers will represent Ohio in both the discus and shot put.
Odunaiya and Ryan rank eighth and ninth in the discus. Jordan Porter and Moore rank fourth and 13th in the shot put.
Tana Barrett will participate in the high jump. She's the only Bobcat that qualified outside of the throws. Her best jump this year was for 1.65 meters.
Marissa Handel will represent Ohio in the 400-meter dash. She is seeded No. 18 with a time of 57.08 seconds.
Mya Hodge qualified for the 100-meter hurdle field with a time of 14.54 seconds.
Across four distance races, Ohio is represented by seven athletes.
Emily Deering will compete in the 800 meters with the fifth-fastest time. Freshman Melissa Barrett is seeded 13th.
In the 1,500 meters, Josie Woosley and Melissa Koziol are seeded 12th and 14th.
Two experienced upperclassmen are podium hopefuls for the Bobcats in long distance events.
In the 5,000-meter race, Alyssa Atkinson and Ellen Isaac enter with times of 16:54.62 and 17:15.39.
In the 10,000 meters, Atkinson and Isaac enter seeded seventh and ninth respectively. They will be joined in the race by Tiffany Hill.
Ohio plans to compete in both relay races this weekend after a regular season plagued with many obstacles, mostly injury filled.
The struggles have resulted in slow times for the Bobcats in both events all season. Mya Hodge has experienced the brunt of the issues with her 4x100-meter relay team.
“We've just had a ton of injuries this year,” Hodge said. “We’ve just been so inconsistent. I’m really unhappy with our times.”
The Bobcats enter the 4x100 ranked 10th of 11 teams. Their top time is 48.72 seconds.
Hodge is joined by senior classmates Thelma Agyekum and Anna Michael, alongside freshman Abby Summers.
There are a lot more ingredients for success in the 4x400-meter relay for Ohio. With Handel, Deering and Barrett all competing at the conference meet in either the 400 or 800 meters, the potential for a strong relay squad is there, too.
“We have Emily Deering, Melissa Barrett and Marissa Handel running really well,” Calkins said. “All three of those girls are potential 56-second runners. We have to have somebody step up in that fourth position.”
Kaitlyn Logan will be the person to step up into the fourth position for Calkins. Logan, a senior, has been a staple for the Bobcats in the 800 meters for the past four seasons.
She'll have the daunting task of filling in the void for a 4x400 relay team desperate to make it onto the conference podium. Logan has only ran under a minute in the 400 meters twice in her career.
“If you can get down to that 3:48.00 range (as a team), then you start sniffing at a place (on the podium),” Calkins said. “Seventh, eighth place. That’s the goal — to place at conference.”
Ohio is ranked 11th of 12 teams coming in. The team’s best time so far this season is a 3:55.20.
The Bobcats have been on a steady incline this season across multiple events. It’s been a noticeable improvement from March until now.
“The athletes that figure out they’ve got to put the time in and the hard work — then they’re the ones that excel and get better each week,” Calkins said. “That’s what it takes — the only application.”