Women claim third MAC indoor title, men place second
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Over smiling faces and trophies, the Kent State Fight Song echoed through The University of Akron’s Louis and Freda Stile Athletics Field House.
The Kent State women’s track and field team surged on the second day of the 2012 MAC Indoor Championships to overcome a 27 point deficit and win its third Mid-American Conference indoor team title.
Sophomore Shanequa Williams, winner of the Women’s Most Outstanding Track Performer, led the women’s track team. Williams won the 200-meter dash, placed second in the 400-meter dash and was a member of the fourth place 4x400-meter relay group.
Twice Williams ran the 400, and in doing so she achieved a new record for the fastest time in Kent State program history.
“It was an amazing effort by Shanequa,” said Bill Lawson, director of track and field and cross country. “In the preliminaries she sets a school record, then in the finals she breaks that record — an amazing effort by this young lady.”
The Flashes’ comeback began when junior Melinda Sawnor rallied from fourth place in the 800-meter run on the last turn to win the event.
“We’re very proud of Melinda,” Lawson said. “She ran a very calculated race. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but that’s how we planned it. We had our plan, and sometimes plans don’t always work out; but this time they did.”
Graduate student Penina Acayo also came up big in the triple jump, winning the event for the Kent State team.
“I felt good,” Acayo said about her event. “When I jumped 41’, I knew I took the lead. I wanted 42’ because I’ve been trying for that all year, but I was just happy that I did my part.”
When the final racer crossed the line, the women’s team had claimed its title.
“The passion and pride was huge for me because we were at Akron, our rival,” Acayo said. “I felt blessed being part of the team at that point.”
Before the team received its award, Lawson was named the MAC Women’s Coach of the Year.
“It’s always an honor to win this award,” Lawson said. “That award goes to the staff; they know that I recognize their effort. I just ran the ball in from the two, they did all the work.”
The men’s team fell short of the title, taking second place, but still gave the Kent State team a one and two finish.
“I was proud of our program,” Lawson said. “At the end of the day, we were first and second. In my mind, we’re the best program in the conference with a first and second and no one else can say that.”
The men were restrained by injuries, losing both junior Brandon Bailey and sophomore Laron Brown.
“I thought the men had a better chance,” Lawson said. “But the injuries showed us what kind of day it was going to be. We fell behind early and didn’t get any help from the other teams. Akron deserved it.”
Despite great efforts by the men’s team, the Akron team wouldn’t let the Kent team close the point gap.
Senior Princeton Bryson was the men’s best performer, getting wins in the 60-meter dash and the 200-meter dash.
“With the win [in the 60], everyone rallied around it,” Bryson said. “We didn’t start off well, but we had a good push at the end.”
Bryson said he didn’t think of the pressure of the situation, and that mindset may have rubbed off on the rest of the team, men and women.
Shortly after Bryson’s win, the rest of the team started to perform at a high level, including juniors Kenneth Agee and Dean Wood, who finished first and second in the men’s high jump. Senior Ruben Belen place fifth in that same event.
Lawson said he is very proud of his team and feels good about where the program is heading after this performance.
The Flashes will return to action this weekend at the Alex Wilson Invitational in South Bend, In., and at the Virginia Tech Qualifier in Blacksburg, Va.