Track looks to build off last week’s success tonight at Akron

Josh Johnston

Kent State’s indoor track team will face its toughest opponent tonight when the Akron Zips invade the Field House.

The Akron women’s team, three-time defending Mid-American Conference indoor champions, was voted the preseason favorite to win the 2008 MAC indoor championships.

“It’s going to be a dogfight,” coach Bill Lawson said. “They’re going to have a very strong women’s team and a strong men’s team.”

The men’s team will not have an easy time against Akron despite out-placing them in last year’s championships. Akron’s men were picked second in the preseason poll and Kent State was picked to place third.

A key athlete to watch for in the men’s competiton will be senior high jumper Shamel Smith. Smith has come within just 1 1/4 inches from qualifying for the NCAA Indoor Championships this season.

“I feel much stronger, mentally tough,” Smith said. “I feel like I’m ready to reach my goal of going to nationals.”

Smith will face Akron’s Ryan Jones, who jumped 7 feet, 1/4 inch earlier this year. Smith’s best jump was 6 feet, 11 inches against Ohio State.

On the track, sophomore sprinter Curtis Eaton Jr. will face many strong Akron runners in the 200-meter dash. Lawson said Eaton was instructed not to run all out at last week’s meet to save himself for the rest of the season.

“I’m just taking it a step at a time,” Eaton said. “It’s still early.”

Leading the charge against Akron for the women will be MAC track athlete of the week, senior Andrea Bryson. Last week against Ohio and Youngstown State, she won the 60 and 200-meter dashes. Lawson said Bryson has become a pillar for the women’s track team.

“She’s doing her job right now,” he said. “More importantly, she’s a team leader. We need people to rally off of that.”

Tonight, field events start at 6 and running events start at 7:15 in the Field House.

Contact sports correspondant Josh Johnston at [email protected].