Annual meet becomes weekly competition

Junior+Jordin+Ordway+hands+off+the+baton+to+junior+Chelsea+Laury+in+the+400+meter+relay+at+the+Kent+Fieldhouse+on+Friday%2C+Jan.+22%2C+2016.+Kent+lost+the+meet+to+Akron%2C+80-71.

Junior Jordin Ordway hands off the baton to junior Chelsea Laury in the 400 meter relay at the Kent Fieldhouse on Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. Kent lost the meet to Akron, 80-71.

Samantha Lough

By the time the Mid-American Conference indoor conference championships rolls around on Feb. 26, the Kent State track team will have competed against Akron four times in six weeks.

The two teams will have competed at a dual meet, the Akron invitational this weekend, the Spire Invitational in Geneva, and for the final time this season at the indoor MAC championship meet.

“It is not unusual for us to compete with Akron more than a few times a season because of our proximity. Plus we have two of the best facilities around,” head coach Bill Lawson said. “It’s better for the athletes to sleep in their own beds, and it saves money because we don’t have to pay for hotels and a bus trip.”  

Legend says a wheel was found after a wagon got stuck traveling from Akron to Kent, and when Raymond Manchester, Kent’s dean in 1945, suggested that it be used as a trophy in the Akron-Kent football game. The rivalry continues in football and in 15 NCAA varsity sports, including track and field.

 “Competing with Akron so much makes it easier to win, and (we) compete against them because we get to see how they compete,” senior Jesse Oxley said. “Knowing what they’re capable of and knowing what we’re capable of pushes our team to work harder, because they’re the highest level of competition we see besides nationals.”

Last year, Akron’s men’s team came in first at the MAC indoor championship. Kent State’s women’s team came in second, and the Zips came in third.

“I think it’s easier to compete and put up big marks against Kent, because our team gets comfortable with them and their tendencies,” Akron senior Alexis Cooks said. “Competing with them becomes like practicing with your own teammates. As a team, (Akron) wants to win, but I want to see Kent do well too.”

Although the competition is fierce, both teams agree that to be the best you have to compete against the best out there. Both teams believe that the rivalry matchup provides that. Akron coach Dennis Mitchell calls it a good rivalry.

“We both have really good teams, and we push each other to do well,” Mitchell said. “Good things happen in rivalry meets that prepare us for the MAC championships and nationals.”

The 12th-annual Akron Invitational will be held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 5-6.  

Samantha Lough is a sports reporter for the Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].