The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News


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Track and field hosts first meet of 2024

Eastern is hosting the John Craft Invitational, which is the second meet of the indoor track and field season. (File)

In all of school history, Eastern track and field has sent four athletes to the Olympics. One of these four has been honored for the past 10 years at Eastern’s premier track meet.

The namesake of this meet is John Craft. Craft attended the 1972 Munich Olympics where he placed fifth in the triple jump. He was raised in Kankakee, Illinois, and later attended Eastern from 1966 to 1970 under Head Coach Pat O’Brien. Craft would later be an assistant coach at Eastern for 30 years after his Olympic debut, retiring in 2002.

The John Craft Invitational will be held for the 10th time since its inception on Jan. 25, 2014.

The schools competing in the meet are the IUPUI Women, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Vincennes University and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

This meet will be first-year Director of Track and Field James Gildon’s second track meet at Eastern. Coach Gildon led the Panthers at the EIU Early Bird Meet on Dec. 8 of last year.

Gildon reported that his athletes have been doing great during training since the winter break, and he is excited to see how they do at the upcoming meet.

First-year Assistant Coach Mitchel Couch will be leading the throwers for his first meet at Eastern on Saturday. Couch arrived on campus during winter break, giving him less than a month to work with his athletes.

“We are taking it one day at a time,” Gildon said. “He [Couch] kind of got thrown into the fire mid-year, which is a challenging time to come in and hit the ground running. He’s done a really good job of embracing it. He’s handled it like a champ, and we’re here to support him.”

Eastern’s distance runners will be competing for the first time since cross country season, which ended in early November of last year.

“They’re hungry, they haven’t competed for a while,” Gildon said. “Last time they were out was regionals last year in 2023. They’ve been working really hard over break, and they’re anxious to get out there in front of the home crowd.”

The John Craft Invitational will begin at 10 a.m. with throwing events and end at 3:20 p.m. with the 4×400 relay. All events will be held in Lantz Indoor Fieldhouse.


Aidan Cusack can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].


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Ashanti Thomas
Ashanti Thomas, Photographer
Ashanti Thomas is a senior digital media major. She previously served as photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.

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