Eastern track welcoming new talent

Tom O'Connor, Track and Field Reporter

The Eastern track and field team will head for the starting line to kick off the 2018 season, with five teams expected to compete for the Early Bird track tournament at Lantz Field House Friday.

As the storied 2016-17 season effectuated successful returns, the baton has been handed off to the next group, relaying nothing less than high expectations after the men’s and women’s track and field teams won the OVC indoor championships. This year’s squad has readied in preparation to take on such a hefty load.

Coming off a season in which the Eastern men’s and women’s track and field teams seized conference supremacy, the team hurdled the ineludible crossroads this past offseason, as many of the decorated athletes from that squad have since graduated.

While incoming talent could certainly invigorate the existing roster-this past offseason, the Panthers brought on 15 freshmen to join the ranks. The transitions have posed an ever present quandary for the coaching staff.

“As a coaching staff, you never really replace good seniors, never,” Eastern Track and Field coach Tom Akers said.

“So it will be interesting to see some of those emerging athletes that I have just spoken about. How large of an improvement they are going to make.”

Much to the Panthers’ misfortune, several unexpected injuries have crept into the fold, nearly days ahead of the 2017-18 season.

“We have been healthy all fall and just these last couple weeks we have had a few illnesses and injuries pop up, which is a little disappointing because some kids are not going to be able to compete now,” said Akers.

The Panthers will compete against Western Illinois, Loyola-Chicago, Illinois State and Indiana State for the meet today.

Eastern senior Haleigh Knapp finished last indoor season with top 25 honors in the high jump, setting OVC and Eastern track and field records, when she jumped 5’ 11.25. Similarly, senior Davion McManis outperformed conference rivals at the championships, earning him a bronze medal in the long jump event at the OVC conference championships and a top 25 finish amongst NCAA in his event as well.

For a few of the teams participating in tomorrow’s festivities, which include the 60-meter dash and the high jump, the season has already begun.

Loyola freshman Tyler Elmor, who has been ranked in the top 60 in the men’s 60- meter dash to start the season, registered a 6.93 mark at the Grand Valley State Holiday Open.

Another member of the Ramblers team, junior Natajah Simmons, ratcheted up an elusive feat in the women’s 200-meter dash in 24.75 seconds time that, when juxtaposed with her top 40 ranking in the 60 meter dash, places her in the top echelon of college runners.

The field competitions are expected to begin at 2 p.m. , while the running events have been scheduled for 4 p.m.


Tom O’Connor can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]