7 athletes qualify for regionals at weekend track meet

Josh Johnston

One of Bill Lawson’s, Kent State track and field coach, goals is to have more than 20 regional qualifiers by the end of the outdoor season. After the team’s performance at the Duke Invitational in Durham, N.C., this weekend, Lawson might get his wish a little sooner than expected.

In the Flashes’ outdoor season debut, seven athletes hit regional qualifying marks in eight events. The throwers led the way with six of those athletes.

“It was just an outstanding job in general by the men’s and women’s throwing group,” Lawson said. “Great job by coach (Nathan Fanger).”

Senior Jaroslaw Zakrzewski gave Kent State’s best performance by tossing the hammer 214 feet, 4 inches for a win. Zakrzewski said he wasn’t expecting to throw that far.

“It’s very early in the season,” he said. “It was only my second competition this year. Coming into the meet, I didn’t know what to expect.”

After an indoor season hampered by a back injury and illness, Zakrzewski said he was happy to throw well.

“It was a good time of the season to throw that far,” he said. “It gives me a better idea of where I’m standing right now.”

His winning throw could put him in the top 10 nationally, Lawson said.

“He had what we would call a mediocre finish to his indoor season,” he said. “It’s not that we didn’t think he could do it, but we were surprised he did it this early. If he goes and throws that at the national meet, he could be in the finals with that performance alone.”

Behind Zakrzewski, sophomore Anthony Connor and redshirt freshman Matthew Pfleger also grabbed regional qualifying marks in the hammer. Connor threw 187 feet, 1 inch while Pfleger tossed 186 feet, 6 inches.

“I don’t like to use the word ‘surprise,'” Lawson said, “but I was very delighted to see them (regionally qualify) this early in the season.”

Coming off of a redshirt indoor season, junior Nia Henderson threw both the shot put and discus to regional qualifying marks. Her throw of 49 feet, 1 1/2 inches in the shot put took first while her 155 foot, 9 inch discus toss earned her third place.

Sophomore Bekah Stoltz made a successful return from a knee injury to win the javelin. Stoltz, the 2006 USA Junior Track and Field Championships winner in the javelin, tore her ACL in last year’s opening meet, ending her season.

“It’s been a long road back for (Stoltz),” Lawson said. “On her first throw of her comeback, she hit a regional qualifying mark, which is an indication of what her talents are.”

On the track, the Flashes were slowed down by the weather with numerous events canceled because of stormy conditions.

“They weren’t the best conditions, but they weren’t terrible,” Lawson said. “With the track being so wet, it got a little spongy. There weren’t very good sprint times across the board.”

Despite the conditions, senior Nick Ivancic was able to run a regional qualifying time in the 400-meter hurdles.

“It was nice to get out there and get the regional mark in the first race,” he said. “I don’t have that pressure at every meet of going out and trying to get that mark, so it was just nice to get that out of the way.”

Lawson said he gave both the men’s and women’s team a solid grade for its first meet.

“Our mission plan was not to just come down here and think about easing in,” he said. “We wanted solid performances. We’re not at full strength yet. We’ve got a long ways to go, but so does everyone else in the conference.”

Contact sports correspondent Josh Johnston at [email protected].