Kent State track and field athletes turned in some of their best work at the SPIRE NCAA Division


Mike Schober, senior Sports Administration major, competes in the preliminary heat for the Men’s 60 meter hurdle.. Photo by Valerie Brown

Daniel Staimpel

In the highly competitive field of many top colleges, the team broke multiple school and personal records.

Grad student Penina Acayo leaped to a third place finish in the event. By doing so, she moved up to the second in Kent State history and got a top 15 distance in the nation.

“It was a huge break for me,” Acayo said. “My confidence was shaken in preliminaries when I got a foul on my first jump. I felt like it was good, but I didn’t know that good.”

Acayo said that her coach told her to make a small adjustment, and although she thought she should’ve done more, her jump landed in the record books.

“He told me to move back two inches,” Acayo said. “I thought ‘shouldn’t I move back like ten inches to be on the safe side?’ I’ve learned to trust coach more.”

The team was using the meet to get ready for the MAC championships in two weeks. Coach Phil Rickaby said it was the perfect opportunity to do the final adjustments in technique.

“As we’re tailoring training, kids are starting to taper into the MAC championships,” Rickaby said. “Most problems from the beginning of the year have been answered. We just have little things that need to be fixed, fine tuned.”

And with five new top ten marks, the coaches are happy with the results getting better.

Freshman Chanitta Westbrooks ran the fourth-fastest 200-meter dash in school history Saturday.

“I think me understanding technique helped,” Westbrooks said. “Get out of the blocks, work the curve and finish strong.”

Westbrooks said that just like Acayo, she made a small adjustment in her technique that helped her win the race.

“There’s a fine line between putting yourself in the race and taking yourself out of the race,” Rickaby said about race tactics. “It takes an understanding of the athletes and their bodies.”

Junior Melinda Sawnor was the third Kent State woman to run a top-ten time Saturday. Sawnor ran the 1-mile the seventh fastest in school history.

Not to be outdone, both grad student John Minen and junior Michael Heller both ran top-ten times in the men’s 3000-meter run, with Minen setting the second-best time in school history.

The track and field team returns to action Saturday, Feb. 18th when it hosts the Kent State Tune Up.

Contact Daniel Staimpel at [email protected].