Flashes track and field hand off season-best performances at Penn Relays

Richie Mulhall

Bright rays of sunshine and warm weather finally appeared, heralding the University of Pennsylvania’s 119th annual Penn Relays held in Philadelphia, Pa. over the weekend.

Kent State arrived at Franklin Field Thursday and participated in the historic, three-day meet that featured both collegiate and high school track and field athletes from all around the country. The team was pitted against more than 22,000 talented student athletes from numerous states and divisions and held its own. Kent State track and field head coach Bill Lawson said his team had “the best weekend of the entire year.”

“We moved forward so much in so many places this weekend,” Lawson said. “I’m very pleased on how we moved forward on both the men and women’s side just a week away from the MAC Championships.”

Lawson said “the biggest performance of the weekend” came from sophomore thrower Matthias Tayala, whose win in the College Men’s Hammer Throw Championship highlighted the team’s weekend. His throw of 217 feet, 8 inches now ranks seventh among Kent State’s all-time hammer throw records.

Tayala continued to light it up in the field events Friday when he claimed second place in the College Men’s Discus Throw Championship.

Another Flash who Lawson said had a phenomenal performance was sophomore jumper Roseanne Erickson, who won the College Women’s Long Jump on the opening day of competition with a leap of 20-04.25.

“[Erickson got] a lifetime PR, solidified her position for the first round of the Regional Championships, which is the first round of the National Championships, and is just five centimeters off the school record,” Lawson said.

Lawson was impressed with Erickson because this was her first meet since being out with an injury for three weeks. Erickson said she wasn’t sure how the meet would go considering her lengthy time off, but the Penn Relays really motivated and put her in the right mood and mindset to enjoy the competition.

“It was great [to be back],” Erickson said. “It was quite exhilarating, especially being at Penn Relays as the first one back.”

Also opening the Flashes’ weekend in a good way was senior distance runner Michael Heller, who kicked Thursday off with a fourth-place finish in the grueling 5000-meter run. His time, 14:23.22, broke his previous personal record by a little more than two seconds to become the second-best 5000-meter time in school history for the event. His previous PR in the event was 14:25.99.

“I was actually hoping to go a little faster, but just with the way the race played out, it wasn’t in the cards,” Heller said. “I was happy how I kept myself in the race and competed until the end.”

Heller said Thursday was probably his last meet before the Mid-American Conference Championships on May 9, so it was good for him to run his best time beforehand. He said he was hoping to break the school record all season long, but doesn’t think it’s likely to happen at the MAC Championships because the meet is more about being tactical in the race than trying to PR. Still, though, Heller said he is happy with his own performance that secured his name in Kent State’s track and field record books.

“I can hold my head high and be proud because I ran a time like that,” Heller said.

Lawson said yet another Flash who stood out in his mind as a top competitor during the weekend was freshman thrower Danniel Thomas, who finished first in the College Women’s Shot Put and second in the College Women’s Discus Throw Championship.

Other standout performances include senior Sarah Oczypok’s second-place finish in the College Women’s Javelin Championship and freshman Jesse Oxley’s third-place finish in the College Men’s Pole Vault.

The Flashes will return to action Friday when they venture to Akron for the Campbell-Wright Open.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].