Storm Set to Compete Among Nation's Best at D-II Team Challenge This Weekend

Isaac Snyder (Photo by Ryan Baker/Baker Media Productions)
Isaac Snyder (Photo by Ryan Baker/Baker Media Productions)

Preview courtest of United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA)

FINDLAY, OHIO – Faster, Higher, Stronger – that is the goal of athletes competing at the NCAA II Team Challenge this weekend hosted by The University of Findlay.  On the heels of the Midwest's colossal snow and ice storm, athletes will put their training, fitness and talent to the test as some of the top NCAA II teams gather in UF's Malcolm Athletic Center.  While temperatures on the outside will be frigid, the action on the track and in the field is expected to sizzle. 

Last year's competition produced 17 NCAA II automatic and 78 provisional qualifying marks and this year's meet should be no different as nine USTFCCCA nationally ranked teams will be in attendance.  The men's meet features the #1 and #2 ranked teams – Lincoln (Mo.) and Ashland – as well as #10 Findlay, #20 Indiana (Pa.), and #25 Kentucky State.  Individually, 18 NCAA II All-Americans are entered including 2010 national champions Nafee Harris (Indiana, Pa.; long jump) and Kurt Roberts (Ashland; shot put). On the women's side #2 Ashland will try to hold off #4 Lincoln (Mo.) while #10 Indiana (Pa.) and #13 Hillsdale will look to score some major points.  Four 2010 NCAA II national champions – Ashland's Steph Tinney (400m), Abby Kacsandi (high jump), Tara Cooper (weight throw) and Kelly Ash (shot put) – as well as Lincoln's defending national champion 4x400m relay will highlight the women's meet along with 15 NCAA II All-Americans.

Faster – Nationally-ranked athletes will go head-to-head in hopes of locking in a trip to Albuquerque as many running events feature current top-ten performers.  The men's sprints will be especially strong.  The men's 400m will pit #2 Roxroy Cato (Lincoln) against #7 Steve Banton (Lincoln), #9 John Guagenti (Findlay), and #10 Justin Ware (Tiffin).  Findlay's Lyndon Johnson (#9-200m; #18-60m) will try to break-up a strong dual in Lincoln's Mandel Clifford (#6-60m; #8-200m) and Terrel Cotton (#4-200m; #21-60m).  The 60m hurdles features the top-ranked NCAA II performer in Lincoln's Sabiel Anderson while the 800m will be hotly contested between #3-ranked Kieren Broussard of Kentucky State and #5-ranked Tom Scott of Ashland.

The 60m hurdles and 400m dash will be the premier running events on the women's side.  Findlay's #3-ranked Raven Clay leads the hurdle field but will face stiff competition from Kentucky State's Ebone Washington (#5) and Lincoln's Judith Riley (#8), Sanchia Lee (#8), and Yanique Haye (#13).  The women's 400m should prove to be one of the best races of the day as NCAA II defending national champion Steph Tinney of Ashland (#3-ranked in 800m) will tangle with the Tigers of Lincoln – Yanique Haye (#3), Michelle Cumberbatch (#4), Keniesha Jones (#8) – as well as Central State's Brittany Brown (#10).  Lincoln should dominate the short sprints with Shanna Kaye Wright (#1-60m), Judith Riley (#3-60; #5-200m), and Nyoke Cole (#4-60m; #4-200m). 

Higher – The vertical jumps may get tactical as just inches or less separate the top entrants in the high jump and pole vault.  Lake Erie freshman Jamil Dudley (Massilon, Ohio/Massilon) has the second-best jump in NCAA II at 7' ½" while Cory Vales of Findlay is at 7' ¼".  Three more jumpers are entered at 6'8 ¾" or better.  The pole vault will feature #2, #4, and #6-ranked athletes Shane Shockey (Findlay), Cameron Daugherty (Slippery Rock), and Lake Erie sophomore Eric Klucar (Medina, Ohio/Highland) respectively. Indiana (Pa.)'s Nafee Harris has the best NCAA II long jump this year at 24'3" while his teammate Brandon Ford (#13) heads the triple jump field.

The women's long jump should be very competitive as the event features six of the top nineteen jumpers in NCAA II this year including #1-ranked Brianna Liebold (Indiana Pa.), #4-ranked Cheryl Bourne (Ashland), and #5-ranked Sanchia Lee (Lincoln).  Defending NCAA II national champion Abby Kacsani of Ashland should dominate in the high jump as well as All-American Kayla Caldwell of Hillsdale in the pole vault.

Stronger – The throwing events will showcase some of the top throwers in the country.  Defending national champion, NCAA II record holder, and #1-ranked Kurt Roberts of Ashland headlines the shot put field which includes seven of the top-25 ranked throwers in NCAA II.  Findlay's Derrick Vicars eclipsed the 60-foot barrier last week and is ranked #3 in NCAA II while Ashland's DJ Duke is #6 and Tiffin's John Pemberton is #8.  The weight throw field is just as deep with seven of the top 24 throwers competing.  Ashland's Richard Quick (#6) and Findlay's Vicars (#8) should be in the hunt for the win.

The women's weight field is loaded as it features four of the top ten throwers in NCAA II as well as the defending national champion, Tara Cooper of Ashland.  Vying for the win should be Northwood's Kristin Cameron (#2), Ashland's Kelly Ash (#4) and Katie Sopher (#6) and Findlay's Randi Depp (#8) .  Ash is the top entrant in the women's shot put with the country's fourth-best throw, while Cameron (#6) will try to upend the NCAA II defending national champion.

Faster, Higher, Stronger – The meet's conclusion will feature two of the best races of the meet in the 4x400m relays.  At the end of the day, who will be faster? Who will be stronger? Who wants to move higher on the national list?  National leader Lincoln is the top team on paper, but #6 Ashland will look to end the meet with a win as will the outdoor qualifying team from Indianapolis.  The men's race looks to one of the best of the day with #4-ranked Lincoln, #5 Ashland, and #6 Findlay all vying for the win.

-USTFCCCA-