Individual efforts key for split track and field team

Josh Johnston

Coach sends some to Iowa and others to Michigan

For Bill Lawson, Kent State track and field coach, individual head-to-head competition mattered more than overall places at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa. Despite not winning a single event at the 8,000 athlete meet, the Flashes out-performed some of the top track and field athletes in the country.

Senior John Harper came into the meet as the reigning discus champion. On Saturday he threw 174 feet, 8 inches to take third.

“There were some people ranked ahead of him both regionally and nationally, and in head-to-head competition with the same conditions, John beat them,” Lawson said. “I liked that.”

Cold, windy weather blasted the men’s pole vaulters Friday. Out of the 23 competitors, only 12 jumped at least opening height. Senior Erik Lindahl cleared the opening height of 15 feet, 7 inches, but went no further.

“(Lindahl) did a good job comparatively to the level of good performers that were there that didn’t perform,” Lawson said. “In similar conditions, he performed way better than half the field.”

On the women’s side, junior Nia Henderson moved into the top-20 nationally with a 52-foot-10-inch throw in the shot put. Henderson took fourth place with her season’s best throw.

“The thing I like most about it is in a very big venue, she competed against a field with the number one and two girls in the nation,” Lawson said.

Sophomore Jessica Lhotsky continued to run impressive times in the 800-meter run, anchoring both the sprint medley and the 4×800-meter relay. Lhotsky ran a split of 2 minutes, 11 seconds to put the women’s team in seventh.

Senior Andrea Bryson and freshman Shavae Wright ran the 200-meter legs, while junior Ashley Rhodaback carried the baton for the 400-meter leg in the relay.

Only two seconds off the regional qualifying time, Lhotsky said she was hoping to run faster by this point in the season.

“Next weekend I’m going to work hard to get (a regional qualifying time),” she said. “That should be my weekend to get it at the Jesse Owens meet in Columbus.”

Kent State split the team this weekend, with a squad of Flashes going to the Hillsdale Relays in Hillsdale, Mich. to compete.

Sophomore Anthony Connor highlighted the meet with a first-place finish in the discus. His throw of 168 feet, 4 inches leaves him just 16.5 inches shy of a regional qualifying mark.

Also close to a regional qualifying mark was junior Erin Ferut in the pole vault. Although her jump of 10 feet, 8 inches was two feet under the mark, pole vault coach Gabe LeMay said he expects her to qualify soon.

“Even with just clearing that 10-8, she’s got a lot of room to improve,” he said. “She was a foot and a half over 11-2, but came down on the bar.”

With the MAC Championship only two weekends away, Lawson said the team is not where he would like them to be at this point.

“Right now, if we had to run the conference meet this coming weekend, we’d be in trouble,” he said. “We certainly should be able to hold or improve by the MAC Championships. A little time away and a little rehab and sometimes the rest does the body good.”

Contact sports correspondent Josh Johnston at [email protected].