BOWLING GREEN ? The University of Akron track and field program made history as both the men’s and women’s teams were Mid-American Conference Champions. After sweeping team titles, UA head coach Dennis Mitchell was named MAC Coach of the Year for both the men’s and women’s side, while Stevi Large was named MAC Female Field Performer of the Year and Cadeau Kelley was named MAC Male Field Performer of the Year.
Akron’s women beat second-place Western Michigan by 55.5 points, 208.5 to 153. The men held off perennial champion Eastern Michigan for its first ever title, beating the Eagles by one point, (183 to 182).
Saturday was a historic day in that the women’s program has now set the standard as the MAC’s winningest women’s program over a four-year span, with four straight MAC Indoor championships and three straight MAC Outdoor championships (with one outdoor runner-up finish in 2005). Also, the women set a record for most points scored in a MAC Outdoor Championship with 208.5. The previous record was 154 points, which Akron’s women scored last year.
For the men, history was made in that it marked the men’s first MAC title i(either indoor or outdoor) and it marked just the third time a school has swept the men’s and women’s championships at the MAC Outdoors as Eastern Michigan accomplished the feat in 1997 and 2000. In fact, this only was the second time since the inception of the MAC Outdoors (1996) that Eastern Michigan did not win the men’s championship (Central Michigan won in 2005). Akron’s men have steadily climbed to its position of MAC Champion moving from fifth four years ago to a then program-bet runner-up at the 2007 MAC Outdoors and ’08 MAC Indoors.
This year’s men’s title was nearly deja-vu from last year. Last year, Akron was leading by three points going into the final race, the 4x400 relay. Eastern Michigan won that relay and the Zips placed third, allowing the Eagles to win by one point. This year, Akron was leading by four points heading into the final race, once again the 4x400 relay. EMU once again won this year and the Zips quartet of K.C. LaCross, James Seale, Aaron Dobson and Anthony Thomas nipped Buffalo at the wire (3:18.67 to 3:18.97) for a third place finish, enough to give Akron its first MAC Championship.
Headlining the field events were second individual titles for both Large and Kelley. Large, who won the hammer and placed third in the shot put on the first two days, won the discus Saturday with a distance of 175-7 (53.52). The mark was an Akron record meaning the junior now owns the UA outdoor records in the hammer, shot and discus. She shattered the previous UA record in the discus of 167-1, set by Jenna Strouse in 2006. Freshman Valerie Wert earned her first career All-MAC honor, placing second behind Large in the discus with a throw of 169-11 (51.79).
Kelley, who won the long jump Friday, completed the sweep by winning the triple jump by over nine inches Saturday. He, like Large, did so in a record-setting fashion, breaking his own mark by over a foot with a leap 50-10.75 (15.51). Tyler Chronister added a sixth-place finish with a distance of 45-7 (13.89).
Akron excelled in the sprints Saturday, going a long way in UA’s record-setting wins. In the women’s 100, Brittany Hocker qualified for the NCAA Mideast Regional with her runner-up finish of 11.73, the fifth-best time in UA history. LaTalia Jones was third (11.79) and Shamara McDavid was sixth (11.92). Those three also scored in the 200 as Hocker won with an NCAA Regional time of 23.85, the fourth-best UA effort all-time. Jones was third (24.03) and McDavid was fourth (24.48).
For the men, Dobson, Thomas and Lorenzo Brazzell each scored in both the 100 and 200 dashes. In the 100, the three took sports 2, 3 and 4. Dobson’s runner-up time of 10.31 improving his seed at the NCAA Regional and is the third-best effort in UA history. Thomas and Brazzell each qualified for the NCAA Regional with times of 10.45 and 10.53, respectively. In the 200, Dobson won with a time of 21.01 with Thomas finishing runner-up (21.08). (Both had previously qualified for the NCAA Regional.) Brazzell placed fifth with a time of 21.62.
It was that performance in the men’s 200 which would ultimately give the Zips a four-point lead heading into the final race as EMU scored eight points ? to Akron’s none ? in the 5k, the race immediately following the 200 and preceding the 4x400 relay.
In the middle distance, sophomore Larisa Arcip repeated as 1500 champion (4:42.16) and was third in the 800 (2:12.56). Danielle Sidell was fifth in the 800 (2:14.32) and Sediah Erskine was fifth in the 1500 (4:46.17). The men picked up five key points in he 1500 thanks to David Marchione’s fourth-place finish (4:04.41).
After dominating the 10,000 meters on Friday, with Carol Eckerly winning and Kim Lorentz placing second, the roles were nearly reversed in the 5,000 Saturday. Lorentz cruised to the championship with a time of 17:26.42, 12 seconds ahead of second, while Eckerly was third with a time of 17:40.59.
The UA men had a pair of top three finishes in the hurdles. First in the 110-meter hurdles, Zach Harper placed third with a time of 14.84. Later in the 400 hurdles, LaCross earned All-MAC by finishing second with a time of 53.47, a personal record and the fifth-best time in UA history.
In other relays, Akron’s women placed second in the 4x100 (46.01) and the men’s 4x100 also placed second with a time of 41.24.
Auston Papey was runner-up n the discus with a throw of 180-8 (55.08). In the women’s triple jump, Niesha Kelly was third with a leap of 38-10.50 (11.85).
In the men’s high jump, the Zips took second and third places. Ryan Jones, who cleared the same height as winner Shamel Smith of Kent State, did place second due to previous misses with a clearance of 7-0.25 (2.14). McCall was third with a jump of 6-10.75 (2.10). On the women’s side, and after placing runner up in the heptathlon, senior Jen Osborn tied for sixth with a personal-record leap of 5-5.
The Zips will take a group of approximately 18 to the NCAA Mideat Regional, which will be held May 30-31 in Fayetteville, Ark. Please continue to check with GoZips.com to see if any student-athletes will participate in any “last chance” meets or to see the finalized field for the NCAA Regional.