By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – One meet stands between the Tennessee Tech track and field team and its defense as Ohio Valley Conference indoor champions.
That meet, which will feature four league opponents and be held in the same venue as the OVC showdown, is the Samford Bulldog Open.
The state-of-the-art Birmingham Metro CrossPlex will be the site, offering a sneak peek of the setting for the league's biggest battle on Feb. 20-21.
The Bulldog will get underway with a few events on Friday starting at 7 p.m. CT, then resume on Saturday morning with the bulk of the action beginning at 8 a.m.
COACH ANGEL QUOTABLES
"The Bulldog Open will be our final tune up before we see action in 10 days at the OVC Championships."
"We are finally starting to gel, and I am very excited about this team. It could be the best track and field team in the history of Tennessee Tech. It's up to the ladies to make that a reality."
"We have grown with each week of this indoor season, and now it is time to put the finishing touches on our OVC meet preparations."
THE GOLDEN EAGLE LINEUP
Tech will have entrants in both women's events being held Friday night, with the 200-meter dash and the high jump scheduled to start simultaneously at 7 p.m.
After a light workweek at Purdue, Lisa Wickham will be back on the line for the 200 in Birmingham. Wickham recorded her fastest 200-meter time ever – indoor or outdoor – with a mark of 24.48 seconds at the Indiana Relays two weeks ago.
Ceirra Tate will join Wickham, running the 200 meters for just the second time this season. She will be looking to produce something similar to the 24.68 that won her third place at last year's OVC Indoor Championships.
Fresh off her victory last week, Na'Scottisha Drummond will take flight in the high jump at the Bulldog.
As one of two jumpers to clear 1.66 meters (5 feet, 5 1/4 inches) at the Fred Wilt Open, Drummond claimed her second career high jump victory. Her best mark of the season, 1.70 meters (5-7) at the Vanderbilt Invitational, is tied for second-best in the conference.
Eshe' Robinson competed in the high jump as part of the pentathlon last week, but will go up against the specialists this time around. Like Drummond, Robinson's career-best indoor mark, 1.55 meters (5-1), came three weeks ago at this year's Vanderbilt Invitational.
Robinson, along with newly minted OVC Female Field Athlete of the Week Khemani Roberts will partake in TTU's first two events on Saturday morning, the long jump (9 a.m.) and the 60-meter hurdles prelims (10:40 a.m.).
The two events were also part of last week's pentathlon series. Roberts won both of them in head-turning fashion, breaking the indoor school record with a 5.72-meter long jump (18-9 1/4), and posting a personal-best time of 8.93 seconds in the 60 hurdles.
She won by nearly an entire foot in the long jump, with her distance ranking fourth in the OVC. Her margin of victory in the hurdles was a whopping two-tenths of a second, and her 8.93 is seventh-fastest in the league.
Robinson recorded marks of 5.03 meters (16-6) and 9.35 seconds, respectively, which netted her a pair of fourth-place finishes.
Should Roberts or Robinson advance out of the 60 hurdles prelims, they will claim spots in the semifinal rounds held at 11:55 a.m., followed by the finals section at 5:40 p.m.
Wickham, Tate and D'Airrien Jackson are entered in the 60-meter dash prelims at 11:30 a.m.
Wickham is the league's best in the 60 meters, having collected a gold medal at last year's OVC Championships, and owning the fastest mark for the 2018-19 campaign. Her time of 7.40 seconds, which is also a Tech indoor record, is still a full tenth of a second faster than any other in the conference, and is currently tied for 37th nationally.
This will be the second attempt of the season for both Tate and Jackson.
Tate's career best of 7.55 seconds came at last year's OVC Championships, where she went on to take fifth place with a 7.60-second sprint.
The semifinals and finals for the 60 will be contested at 12:35 p.m. and 5:50 p.m., respectively.
Raven Smith and Drummond will compete in the triple jump at 12 p.m.
Smith received OVC Female Field Athlete of the Week for her TTU-record 12.00-meter triple jump at Indiana (39-4 1/4), which is now the second-best mark in the OVC.
Up next will be Sharon Chepkemboi and Vivien Chesire in the mile run at 1:15 p.m. Both freshmen raced in the same event last week at Purdue. Chepkemboi took a time of 5-minutes, 31.39-seconds for seventh place, while Chesire came around in 5:43.07.
This will be just the second career attempt for both Anderson and Toney, and only the third try this season for Jackson, the 2018 conference runner-up.
Keyanna Word recorded a personal-best 9.19-meter (30-2) shot put last time out, and will be looking to better that mark when she competes at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Sanga has the conference's No. 1 3K time, a 9:44.39 from the Kentucky Jim Green Invitational that leads all other OVC competitors by almost 13 seconds.
Along with that, the distance star is the queen of the conference for the mile (4:54.55) and the 5,000 meters (16:46.31). That 5K time is also a Tennessee Tech indoor record, and is No. 47 on the NCAA Indoor Performance List.
Kwambai hasn't competed in the 3,000 since the Vanderbilt Indoor Opener on Dec. 1, 2018. Her lone result, a time of 10:19.13, won her second place, and is ninth-best in the OVC.
Brugere made her way up to No. 13 on the OVC Performance List with her personal-best time of 2:21.51 after conversion.
Tech's last event will be the 4x400-meter relay. While the squad is yet to be decided, it will be chosen from a pool of six athletes that includes Anderson, Brugere, Jackson, Roberts, Tate and Wickham.
Last week, Jackson, Roberts, Tate and Wickham ran a season-best 3:53.78 for first place out of five teams. It was three and a half seconds faster than any other foursome, and is the second-fastest mark from the OVC this year.
A total of 30 women's teams will be in attendance at the Bulldog Open.
Tech is the second-highest regionally ranked team at the meet, coming in at No. 19 in the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association South Region poll. The only team above the Golden Eagles is the host Samford, which is slotted 13th in the South.
Murray State, one of the other four OVC programs competing, holds the next spot in the pecking order, No. 21 in the Southeast Region.
The others are Austin Peay (25th, South Region), Belmont (27th, South) and Jacksonville State (38th, South).
Thirteen schools from below the NCAA Division I ranks will be in the field as well.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information