Track and field set for big finish after first day

Josh Johnston

As junior distance runner Kelly Gephart crossed the finish line with baton in hand, Kent State distance coach Mark Croghan raised his fists in triumph.

“That’s what I’m talking about!” he yelled over a cheering crowd.

Finishing 20 meters ahead of the competition, Gephart completed a dominating first-place finish for the Kent State women’s distance medley relay team tonight at the Mid-American Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Fieldhouse.

The team’s leadoff runner, freshman Audrey Maheu, secured the lead with a burst of speed around the final curve of her 1,200-meter leg.

“I just wanted to get my team a good position for it,” Maheu said. “I knew that if I gave them a good position, they’d keep it. We pretty much finished that way.”

The win by the women’s team, consisting of Maheu, senior Rachel Crafton, junior Jessica Lhotsky and Gephart, capped off a successful first day for both the Kent State men’s and women’s teams at the championship meet. With five events in the books, the men sit in first with 46 points, while the women stand just behind Akron with 35 points.

“We’re setting a great position for both the men’s and women’s side,” Kent State coach Bill Lawson said. “The kids competed their hearts out today. I’m very pleased with all the results across the board.”

Along with the win in the distance medley relay, the women picked up a first place by freshman Diana Dumitrescu in the pentathlon. Dumitrescu won the shot put and the 60-meter hurdles and placed second in the long jump and high jump.

“Diana got us started,” Lawson said. “(She) gets us a big 10 points. That kind of started us for the day. It was outstanding.”

On the men’s side, junior throwers Matt Pfleger and Anthony Connor took the top two spots on the podium in the weight throw. Both Pfleger’s toss of 64 feet, 7 inches and Connor’s 64-6.5 effort were personal records.

“I didn’t know what to expect this week,” Pfleger said. “It turned out pretty well. Me and Tony went out strong today; he was only a centimeter behind me, and we both PR’d today. It was a good MAC meet.”

In the most surprising performance of the day, junior pole vaulter Jeremy Brading finished second with a vault of 17-1.5, breaking his own personal record.

“Even though he can do it, and we knew it, he just hasn’t done it,” Lawson said. “His first bar he had two misses, and we thought he was going to no height, then he went on to jumping a PR. That was probably one of the biggest things.”

On the track, the men’s team qualified nearly all of its runners for tomorrow’s finals. Junior sprinter Curtis Eaton Jr. led the way by taking the top qualifying times in both the 200-meter dash (21.55 seconds) and the 400-meter dash (48.26). For the women, Lhotsky finished ahead of the pack to take the top qualifying time in the 800-meter run.

Lawson said the day’s performances set up both the men’s and women’s teams for a high finish overall.

“We are in great shape on the men’s side,” he said. “I think I’ve got us about five points ahead of where we could be. The more important thing is the other teams are farther back than I thought they would be on both the men’s and the women’s (sides). We’re really in a plus-minus situation (that is) very, very good.

“(It was an) outstanding team effort by both the men and women. I couldn’t be more pleased.”

Tomorrow, the championship meet will continue with running events finals starting at 1 p.m. and field events starting at 11:30 a.m.

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].