The Eastern men’s and women’s track and field teams will host the annual EIU John Craft Invite this weekend as each team took home team titles at this meet last season.
Teams that will be competing in this weekend’s events are Maryville University, Mckendree University, Murray State, Chicago State and a couple of unattached entrants.
Head coach Tom Akers said Ohio Valley Conference opponent Murray State will be one of the more competitive teams at the meet.
“Murray State obviously, it will only be women for them, but it’ll be one of our conference foes and they have always been in the upper half of the conference over the last four or five years,” he said. “In fact, a couple of years ago they narrowly missed winning it by a few points, so they’re a pretty strong women’s team.”
There will be lots of competition in each event with many teams participating. Akers saw good things from his runners last weekend at the Illini Classic.
“I think our distance team looked pretty good running in the 3k,” he said. “Paxson Menard had a good race this past weekend. Amy Yeoman in the 800-meters has been running really well.”
Akers also pointed out another strong point we the men’s short spring team that has returned a lot of members from that unit last season. Freshman Adam Kessler had a third place finish in the shot put and that also impressed Akers along with his duo of junior Bryn Buckwalter and senior Janie Howse in their respective field events.
“Adam Kessler has done a really good job, I think, so we have been pleasantly surprised with him as well as the one-two-punch of Bryn Buckwalter and Janie Howse obviously going one, two in the shot put and weight throw this past weekend,” he said.
Having a home meet will be somewhat of an advantage for Eastern’s athletes.
“You get to sleep in your own bed, you don’t have to travel, you can maintain somewhat of a regular routine coming into the meet and of course familiar with the throwing circles, familiar with the track and competing in front of a lot more friends and family obviously is a big boost,” Akers said. “Hopefully they can get fired up and have a good meet, but its still early in the season and we’re still working hard this week in preparation for good things to come towards the end of February.”
The team is coming off of a second-place finish for the men, and a third place showing for the women at the Illini Invite.
The women had three first place finishes from senior Amy Yeoman in the 800-meter run and Buckwalter and Howse went 1-2 in the women’s shot put. The two switched positions in the women’s weight throw with Howse finishing in first and Buckwalter in second.
The men also had some top-five finishes last weekend at the meet.
Akers also said that the team is much healthier than they were in December and hopes for the health to improve more as the indoor season goes along. The field events will begin Saturday at 9:30 a.m. inside Lantz Fieldhouse with track events beginning at 11:30 a.m.
Mark Shanahan can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]