Track and field outdoor season to begin this weekend

Mark Shanahan, Staff Reporter

The Eastern track and field teams will begin the outdoor season this weekend, which means it’ll be the start of the men’s Ohio Valley Conference title defense.

The men’s team recently won the OVC Indoor Championships, but they also took the crown for the outdoor season at the end of last year. The title was their 15th men’s outdoor championship since joining the league. Head coach Tom Akers earned Men’s Coach of the Year honors for the indoor season.

They took the crown with 233.5 points. Their biggest competitors were the men of Southeast Missouri, who finished second with 216 points. Eastern’s men’s track team returns three of the four runners from the 4×100 relay squad that tied the school record.

The returners from the relay team include junior Jonathon Boey, senior Calvin Edwards and junior Jamal Robinson. Also returning is senior Christian Ilunga-Mathhiesen, who was an OVC Medal of Honor winner for his grades.

The women’s team missed winning the OVC Outdoor Championships, as Tennessee State beat them out by just 1.5 points. Tennessee State also got the best of the women’s team at the indoor championships.

Sophomore Haleigh Knapp will look to improve on her successful indoor season, as she earned first team All-OVC honoree in the high jump. Teammates Janie Howse and Bryn Buckwalter each earned first team honorees in the weight throw and the shot-put.

Senior Amina Jackson earned second team All-OVC honors in the women’s 400-meter hurdles in the outdoor championships last season. She talked about the differences between competing outdoor and indoor.

“Well in general there are more events,” she said. “You have the steeplechase and a couple more long distance races. You also have the 4×1.”

Jackson also said that the weather is very unpredictable, while in indoor track the weather will be the same each meet.

“If it’s extremely windy it can be a plus, but also a downer,” she said. “If the wind is at your back it gives you a bit of extra help. If you’re running into the wind you can’t go as fast as you would without wind.”

The outdoor season consists of seven meets followed by the conference championships. The NCAA West Regional and the NCAA Outdoor Championships follow the conference championships if individuals or relay teams qualify. The OVC tournament will begin May 13 in Nashville, Tenn. The NCAA Outdoor Championship will not be until June 8.

Eastern will host two home meets this season: the EIU Big Blue Classic spanning March 31st through April 2nd and the EIU Last Chance on May 6th.

The first meet will be at Southern Illinois Carbondale this Saturday, an annual meet that the teams compete in.

After competing at Southern Illinois Carbondale, the Panthers will head home to O’Brien Field for the EIU Big Blue Classic.

Eastern will also be taking on Illinois in Champaign April 23. But before they head to Illinois, they will take on instate rival Illinois State in Normal.

Mark Shanahan can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]