By Rob Schabert, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information/Track & field contact
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- This has already been a phenomenal season for the Tennessee Tech track & field team, setting school records and posting times that rank among the best in the conference and region.
The Golden Eagles are looking for the fun to continue this weekend when they head to Nashville to compete in the Ohio Valley Conference Outdoor Championships. The meet will be hosted by Tennessee State University on Friday and Saturday.
With the top-ranked performer in the conference in three different events, and featuring athletes ranked in the Top 10 in the league in 11 different events, the Golden Eagles head to Nashville to make an impact at the OVC meet.
The team set 11 Tennessee Tech records during the outdoor season, but head coach Wayne Angel says his team's goals this season are aimed much higher than setting school records. He's looking for his team to make a dent in the finals on Saturday and earn a spot in the top half of the OVC team standings.
"The obvious conclusion at the end of last week's competition (at the Kentucky Relays) was that our ladies got the message that we have to step up our game," Angel said. "We did very well in some areas and others we have to make minor adjustments.
"But all-in-all, I feel that we are prepared to have an exceptional team performance at the OVC championships this week," he said. "I'm confident that this will be one of the best team efforts in TTU history. Our goal is to finish in the upper tier of the team championship standings."
The meet, which is being held at Tennessee State University's Ed Temple Track, begins Friday with the heptathlon starting at 9 a.m. The first day wraps up with the 5,000-meter run beginning at 7:25 p.m.
The schedule Saturday gets underway at 11 a.m., with finals scheduled throughout the afternoon. The climax of the meet is set for 5:20 p.m. with the marquee event, the 4x400m relay.
The 4x400 relay is a race that the Golden Eagles have high hopes for, bringing a foursome that owns the second-fastest time this year in the OVC. The Tech team of Na'Asha Robinson, Crystal Liebenberg, D'Airrien Jackson, and Sharnique Leonce posted a school-record time of 3:41.15 at the Brutus Hamilton Invitational at California in early April, a time that is two seconds off the best time in the league this year.
Two of those sprinters are at the top of the competition list in the conference this season. Jackson, a freshman from Santa Clara, Calif., owns the fastest time in the OVC in both the 400m and 800m races. Robinson, a freshman from Huntsville, Ala., owns the league's best time this year at 200 meters. Robinson is also second in the OVC in at 400 meters, just behind her teammate.
Jackson will focus on the 800m as well as Tech's two relay races. Robinson is entered in the 200m and 400m, in addition to the two relays.
Junior Sarah Brandt, the OVC 800-meter champion during the indoor season, will join Jackson in running the 800m, which is scheduled for 5:25 p.m. Friday. The field will also include sophomore Madison Stremler and freshman Andrea Retano.
One other event that will feature four Golden Eagles is the 1,500-meter run, slated for 2:15 p.m. Saturday. Angel will send Anna Cooper, Sarah Brandt, Jenna Storms, and Molly Griffin into that race.
Two sprints will include three Golden Eagles. Tech will race Tiara Hymon, Morgan O'Neal, and Brittany McGee in the 100-meter dash Friday at 4:55 p.m., and has Robinson, Hymon, and Leonce in the 200-meter dash Friday at 6:45 p.m.
By far the busiest Golden Eagles will be Leonce, who will compete in 12 different events, including seven in the heptathlon as she becomes the first Golden Eagle to ever enter that event at the OVC affair. She will also run on both relays squads, and individually in the 100m hurdles, 200m, and high jump. She goes into the meet ranked sixth in the OVC in the 100m hurdles, 10th in the high jump and 13th at 200m. Her school-record heptathlon mark of 4,661 points ranks third among OVC athletes.
Freshman Crystal Liebenberg's name appears on the lineup for three events, including the two relays and the 400-meter hurdles, which is set for 6:10 p.m. Friday. The other Golden Eagle with three events is Hymon, the lone senior on the roster. She will compete in the 100m and 200m, as well as the 4x100m relay.
Golden Eagles Raven Smith, Makayla Kington and Eshe' Robinson are all slated for two events. Smith will jump in both the long and triple jumps, owning the third-best distance this year in the triple jump with a school-record leap of 39 feet, 10.5 inches. Kington will carry the Tech banner in the discus on Friday and hammer throw on Saturday. Robinson is listed among the entries in the long jump and the 100-meter hurdles.
One other Golden Eagles looking forward to a busy day on Friday is junior distance runner Purity Murray. She will run the 3,000-meter steeplechase at 3 p.m., followed by the 10,000-meter run at 7:25 p.m. in the final event of the opening day.
The Golden Eagle lineup is rounded out by four athletes who will focus on one event. Freshman Na'Scottisha Drummond joins Leonce in the high jump, freshman Currin Washington joins Robinson in the 400m, sophomore Lera McNamara races the 5,000-meter rrun Saturday, and junior Antonia Susnjar is Tech's entry in the javelin. She comes into the weekend ranked fifth in the league in the javelin.
Schedule of events for Golden Eagle athletes:
9 a.m. Heptathlon begins (Sharnique Leonce)
1 p.m. Long Jump (Eshe' Robinson, Raven Smith)
2 p.m. Discus (Makayla Kington)
2:30 p.m. High Jump (Sharnique Leonce, NaScottisha Drummond)
3 p.m. 3,000m Steeplechase (Purity Murray)
3:45 p.m. 100m Hurdles (Sharnique Leonce, Eshe' Robinson)
4:15 p.m. 400m (Na'Asha Robinson, Currin Washington)
4:55 p.m. 100m (Tiara Hymon, Morgan O'Neal, Brittany McGee)
5:25 p.m. 800m (D'Airrien Jackson, Sarah Brandt, Madison Stremler, Andrea Retano)
6:10 p.m. 400m Hurdles (Crystal Liebenberg)
6:15 p.m. Javelin (Antonia Susnjar)
6:45 p.m. 200m (Na'Asha Robinson, Tiara Hymon, Sharnique Leonce)
7:25 p.m. 10,000m (Purity Murray)
11 a.m. Heptathlon continues (Sharnique Leonce)
11 a.m. Triple Jump (Raven Smith)
2 p.m. 4x100m Relay (Leonce, Jackson, Hymon, Robinson)
2:15 p.m. 1,500m (Anna Cooper, Sarah Brandt, Jenna Storms, Molly Griffin)
2:30 p.m. Hammer (Makayla Kington)
2:55 p.m. 100m Hurdles Finals (TBD)
3:15 p.m. 400m Finals (TBD)
3:30 p.m. 100m Finals (TBD)
3:45 p.m. 800m Finals (TBD)
4 p.m. 400m Hurdles Finals (TBD)
4:20 p.m. 200m Finals (TBD)
4:35 p.m. 5,000m (Lera McNamara)
5:20 p.m. 4x400m Relay (Robinson, Liebenberg, Jackson, Leonce)
5:45 p.m. Awards Ceremony
Photo above: Members of the track team enjoy a light moment at one of the Photo Booth stops on the Purple Carpet entrance to the recent Golden Wings Awards Night in Eblen Center.