Steve Shrenkel, Reporter

When the Ashland University men’s indoor track and field team won its first ever NCAA Division II Men’s Indoor Track and Field Championship in Pittsburgh, Kansas, all eyes were focused on the 4×400-meter relay team who brought home the winning point for the title.

There was a group of competitors, however, who helped to kick off the team’s quest for glory at nationals. That group was the Eagle men’s weight throwers.

The team composed of sophomore Brent Fairbanks, junior Nick Zak and junior Alex Hill.

Fairbanks and Hill were considered among the best NCAA Division II indoor men’s weight throwers in history while Zak was having a breakout indoor season in both weight throw and indoor shot put as well.

All three share a very personal bond between each other both on and off the field. Fairbanks and Zak knew each other back in high school while Zak and Hill are currently roommates.

“We’re all pretty much family,” Zak said. “I just know that on the track and off the track we’re both friends and competitors.”

It is this connection that helped them push each other to succeed, Fairbanks said.

“We’ve all grown to love each other as brothers and hold everyone accountable while pushing each other to succeed,” he said.

Along with the personal connection, the three also share a common way in which they compete in weight throw and push each other to succeed: with energy.

“I like to be electric,” Fairbanks said. “I like to be as excited as possible. There’s no such thing as too much energy.”

Zak tends to agree that you can never have enough energy, he said.

“I do try to keep a clear head and try to completely clear my mind,” Zak said. “But for me, having that energy is also extremely important as well. We all feed off each other.”

For Hill, he finds that once he is in competition is when his energy spikes, he said.

“I always give glory to God for everything and ask for peace before the competition,” Hill said. “When I’m in actual competition is when I’ll start hooting and hollering.”

It was the perfect storm going into nationals for Fairbanks, Zak and Hill where they were able to come out strong for the indoor team, finishing 2-3-4 in the country in weight throw.

Fairbanks was the national runner-up throwing 21.14 meters/69-feet-4 ¼. Zak earned third setting a new personal record of 21.06 meters/69-feet-1 ¼ while Hill took fourth at 20.75 meters/68-feet-1. All earned All-American honors.

For Fairbanks, it felt good to be able to finally compete at such a high level, he said.

“It was really an inspiring moment to be to be able to finish well and get second place especially since there were some things last year that prevented me from competing well,” Fairbanks said. “It was nice to compete at a high level.”   

Zak was just happy that he was able to redeem himself from last year where he placed 14th in weight throw, he said.

“To be able to come back and redeem myself from last year was awesome to do,” Zak said.

While Hill didn’t throw as far as he wanted to, he was still more than happy with the results, he said.

“This year, I wanted to come back with a vengeance,” Hill said. “I didn’t throw as far as I wanted to but I was still happy with how I ended.”

While the individual performances certainly stood out for the three, what was more important to them was that they points on the board for the Eagles, Zak said.

“It felt good to set a new PR and be an All-American but what was more important was bringing points to the team and helping us win a national championship,” he said.

The three helped to put 19 crucial points on the board for the indoor team, helping lead the Eagles to gold.

“It felt so good to finally win one,” Zak said. “It just felt great to bring it back not only for us but for the people and coaches that were in this program before us as well.”

For each of the Eagle weight throwers, there was one coach and one person in particular that they wanted to win a championship for. That coach was head track and field coach Jud Logan.

“I actually broke down in tears when I figured out that we won just because that’s been coach Logan’s goal for the last 25 years that he’s been here,” Fairbanks said. “Winning a national championship for the team and being a part of that winning team is just beyond amazing.”

He’s been an huge inspiration for each of them to always do their best, Fairbanks said.

“Coach Logan just always has been like the image of who I want to push me,” he said. “He’s always been such a motivational figure in my head. He’s always been like a father figure to me.”

Zak said that Logan is the perfect example.

“Coach has set the perfect example for us and I just want to live up to that,” Zak said.

He always knows exactly how to get the best out of you, Hill said.

“Coach Logan has this presence that displays excellence and pushes you toward that,” Hill said. “I always know exactly what I have to do.”

While the three Eagles are currently celebrating the indoor team’s national title, they are already looking ahead to the outdoor track and field season.

“We’re just trying to transition right now from thinking indoor to outdoor,” Fairbanks said.

All compete in the outdoor hammer throw while Hill also competes in discus as well. Each have a lofty set of goals for themselves set ahead.

“I’d like to become All-American in outdoor throwing the hammer,” Fairbanks said.

Progression is what will be key for Zak, he said.

“I just want to build off last year and continue progressing,” Zak said. “If I progress from last year, I’ll be happy.”

Hill has his eyes set on a title, he said.

“I think I may have a shot at the national title for hammer,” Hill said. “I want to be at least top three in discus and move up the ranks from what I did last year.”

If the indoor season was any indication for the three Eagle throwers, Fairbanks, Zak and Hill may just have a very good shot at not only meeting but exceeding those goals in the future.