AU Throwers: Pinnacle of NCAA Division II

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AU Throwers: Pinnacle of NCAA Division II

AU women's senior thrower Mackenzie Leigh winds up for a throw in a meet in the spring of 2018.

AU women's senior thrower Mackenzie Leigh winds up for a throw in a meet in the spring of 2018.


AU women's senior thrower Mackenzie Leigh winds up for a throw in a meet in the spring of 2018.



AU women's senior thrower Mackenzie Leigh winds up for a throw in a meet in the spring of 2018.

David Amsden

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Being the top-ranked team in NCAA Division II is an impressive feat to accomplish. To be ranked in the Top 10 for over the past decade is even more impressive.

For the Ashland University track and field team winning is something they excel at. The Eagles have something that you would not expect from a small Division II school that is located in the middle of nowhere.

Most teams have a few solid athletes in each event group: sprints, distance, jumps, and throws. With the occasional star from time to time.

What if there was a Division II school where nearly every athlete in the event group was a star?

The throwers of AU have proven to be just that, being responsible for the nation’s best throwing program in all divisions of collegiate track and field.

Many would question how a small division II school have this much talent, get this much attention and reach such high national standards year in and year out?

Look no further than head coach Jud Logan.

Logan has been coaching at Ashland since 1994, and only planned on coaching for one year but quickly fell in love with the atmosphere and the community.

Sounds normal, right? A coach has been with a program for awhile, and over time they slowly mold a program into a national contender every year?

However, similar to the throwers at AU, Logan is far from average.

Logan competed in the Olympic games. Not once. Not twice. Not even three times, but four.

Most dominant throws program in the nation and the head coach is a four time Olympian? Now that sounds about right.

So why would a man with such huge accomplishments settle for a small school like Ashand?

“I only planned on coaching here for a year, as an assistant coach,” Logan said. “But I soon fell in love with the atmosphere and the community, and realized I found my niche.”

Not only is he a successful coach, but Logan is notorious for making athletes feel welcomed and takes great care of his players.

“I chose Ashland because of the family-like environment Jud creates and the drive towards excellence that the team demonstrates,” AU junior men’s thrower Alex Hill said.

Senior thrower Alex Hill winds up for a discuss throw in a meet in the spring of 2018 with head coach Jud Logan looking on.

Hill, a four time All-American, is one of the top returners for the Eagles on the men’s side. Last season, Hill earned three All-American honors when he placed second in the weight throw, third in the hammer, and fourth in the discus at the NCAA Division II Championships.

On the women’s side, redshirt-freshman Lindsay Baker reflects on Logan.

“He’s not only my coach, but he is a role model and father figure for most of us,” Bakers said. “He’s been there for me more in this past year than most people. His commitment to this team is the same as how committed his athletes are and I think that is what brings us together as a family. I couldn’t imagine my life without Ashland University and the endless possibilities it has given me.”

On the throwers side alone last year, there were 11 All-American honors distributed between six athletes. Four of those athletes are back again for this season and are ready for another year of excellence.

The men will be led this year by a strong group of upperclassmen men led by Hill and fellow junior Nick Zak. Zak, a two time All-American, had a big outdoor season in 2018 and placed 4th in the hammer and is looking to add to his awards this year.

Sophomores Brent Fairbanks and David Amstutz are paving the way for the youth of the program.

Fairbanks competed at nationals in both indoor and outdoor as a true freshman in 2018. Fairbanks placed 10th overall in the weight throw (indoors) and 18th in the hammer (outdoors).

Logan says that Amstutz is a promising athlete and has shown a lot of improvement since last season.

Along with Amstutz and Fairbanks, Logan looks for promising seasons from juniors Jake Glass and Alex Seme and seniors Stephen Pop and Jim Toth. Toth will compete in his final season of indoor but will have another year of eligibility for outdoor.

The women’s side of the team will be led by two of their top returners in seniors Natalie Helenthal and Mackenzie Leigh. Both Helenthal and Leigh boast two All-American honors a piece.

Baker is set to have her first legitimate collegiate season as she ended both indoor and outdoor seasons last year as a freshman.

Baker was a redshirt in the 2017-2018 season but she accomplished an achievement that no Eagle her age has done.

Over the summer Baker traveled to Tampere, Finland and represented team USA in the women’s U20 shot put. Baker placed sixth in the world and is considered top three in the world for her age.

“Understanding the goals that I have for my future, it was really awesome to accomplish this milestone. I was put into an atmosphere at age 19 that I will hopefully see in the near future,” Baker said. “Placing sixth at World’s was one of the greatest feelings in the world because I know there is so much more left in me that the world hasn’t seen yet. They just got to see a snippet of what I am capable because I know there’s more to come.”

To keep her motivated, Baker always reverts back to a quote that has stuck with her from coach Logan.

“Good. Better. Best. Never rest until your good is better, and your better becomes the best.”

In 24 years, Logan has coached 265 All-Americans and 49 National Champions in throws alone at AU.

Jud Logan and his band of throwers at AU are looking for another historic season as it slowly approaches.

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