AUTF ends indoor season on top of podium



Eagles pose for a picture as they celebrate their new national title.

Mason Jones

For the first time in Ashland University history, the men’s indoor track and field team have brought home a national title. On Saturday, March 9, the team had completed all their events and ended with a final score of 38 points, just one more than their closest competitor, Adams State.

The AU track and field teams began their indoor season in December of 2018, with high expectations to make it to nationals in March.

Once at nationals, the goal was for both the men’s and women’s team to improve on their previous years’ finish.

“On the men’s side, we’ve been the national runner-up four times, while on the women’s side we were national runner-up twice,” AU associate head coach Ernie Clark said.

Clark, in his fourth season as a coach and first season as an associate head coach, was extremely confident in the track team because he knew they were capable of achieving something great.

“It’s been a goal for head coach Jud Logan for a while to win a national title,” Clark said. “I came here on a mission to help this program and finish what Logan had started, which was to win a national championship.”

The start of the season brought a No. 4 preseason national ranking for the men and a No. 7 ranking for the women from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).

From the beginning of the season, the AU throwers knew that they were going to make an impact on the season and the team’s overall performance as they carried that success with them to indoor nationals.

“We had a pretty heavy squad and we knew that we could do some damage,” junior thrower Nick Zak said. “It wasn’t just me, we had a pretty deep squad in the throws, including Brent Fairbanks, Alex Hill and Jim Toth who all scored a lot of points for the team.”

Zak became an All-American for the third time in his career after he took third in nationals in the weight throw with a distance of 21.06 meters. His throw was 0.08 meters away from stealing the second place finish from Fairbanks.

While the men’s side of the throw team was looking strong at the start of the season, the women’s throwers knew they were going to be able to compete as well as other groups on the Eagles squad.

Redshirt freshman thrower Lindsay Baker set a new AU women’s indoor freshman record after she shot-putted 16.73 meters during her event at the Tiffin Alumni Open. That shot-put gave her a first place finish and an automatic qualifying spot for nationals.

Senior sprinter Myles Pringle won both the men’s 400-meter dash and men’s high jump at the Youngstown State Icebreaker and automatically qualified for nationals in both events.

After crossing the 400-meter finish line in 46.14 seconds, Pringle set a national meet record and the AU record. He is also the 7th fastest in the U.S and the 11th fastest in the world in 2018-2019.

Fairbanks won the men’s weight throw with a facility record-breaking throw of 21.92 meters/71-feet-10¾ at Youngstown State College Invitational.

Senior thrower Natalie Helenthal bested several Division I competitors with a new automatic mark of 19.88 meters/65-feet-2¾ as she won the women’s weight throw at Penn Nationals on Jan. 26.

At the GLIAC Championships, Baker was named both the GLIAC Women’s Field Athlete of the Year and Freshman Field Athlete of the Meet.

Fairbanks became the GLIAC Field Athlete of the Meet and Field Athlete of the Year on the men’s side.

Sophomore sprinter Trevor Bassitt became the Men’s Track Athlete of the Year while freshman sprinter Keshun Jones became the Men’s Freshman Track Athlete of the Meet.

The Eagle coaching staff earned the GLIAC Men’s Coaching Staff of the Year honor.

Then there was the NCAA Division II nationals for indoor track. When all was said and done, the Ashland men came up on top, with nine men becoming All-Americans. The Eagle women came in 11th place by scoring 16 points and only having four athletes compete overall, with two earning All-American honors.

“Honestly, once we got there, there were so many things that just weren’t going our way, that the picture of doing this for a national championship just left my mind,” Zak said.

The team ended the indoor season with 11 All-American athletes. Pringle, Helenthal and thrower Mackenzie Leigh were those named in the senior class. Junior class athletes were Zak, Hill, sprinter Paul Murray and jumper Ellie Jindra. Fairbanks and sprinter Channing Phillips were among the sophomores named. Baker and sprinter Brayden Chaney both received their first honors as freshman.

“I’ve qualified multiple times and I know what it takes to get here,” Zak said. “Personally I felt like it was my worse nationals meet last year, so for me coming into this meet this year, I kind of wanted to redeem myself for I knew what I was capable of.”

In the end, Zak redeemed himself in the weight throw but he had to overcome some adversity after dropping down to seventh place but he put it all out on the line in his final throw to earn him third place overall.

The only thing missing at the national competition was Logan who was absent due to health reasons.

Upon seeing the trophy for the first time, Logan tweeted, “It exceeded all expectations.”

Logan was named the USTFCCCA Men’s Indoor National Coach of the Year. This year’s honor was his third time receiving the award and the second time receiving it during the indoor season. Logan credited winning the award on Twitter to his “incredible staff at Eagle Nation.”

With the indoor season ending at the top of the podium, the outdoor season is just getting ready to begin.

Clark has little to no worries that the track and field team will do just as well in the outdoor season as they did in the indoor season.

“In track, we are constantly training to be a more superior athlete, and that has different levels with recovery days, intensity days, strength days, speed days and technique days,” Clark said.

The outdoor season kicks off with a two day meet starting on March 22 at the Winthrop Adidas Invitational in South Carolina.