Men win, women falter against UA

Steven Voicik

Another chapter in the storied rivalry between cross-town rivals Kent State and Akron was written Friday night as the two schools met in the annual Kent-Akron Track and Field duel meet, as both schools walked away with a victory. While the Kent State women’s team struggled against one of the top programs in the Mid-American Conference, falling 96-52, the men’s team prevailed in the final two events to claim victory for the Flashes with a final tally of 76-74.

For the men, the competition came down to the final two events, the pole vault, and 4×400 meter relay. Out of the blocks, Kent State grabbed the early lead in the relay but was swiftly taken over by Akron. The third and fourth legs of the race were back-and-forth. Kent State senior Chris Caine had an early lead in the third leg, which he lost and regained several times. Caine trailed as he entered the back leg of the third lap but took the lead with a sudden burst of energy and passed the baton and the lead to teammate Mike Inge. Inge, a senior, never relinquished the lead, and Kent won with a time of 3:15.15.

“We had another strong performance from our relay team, our anchor Mike Inge had a solid performance as did Chris Caine and (freshman) Curtis Eaton, everyone was strong for us,” head coach Bill Lawson said.

Lawson, who is in his second year as head coach of the Track and Field Program, is beginning to fully appreciate the rivalry between the two schools.

“I am starting to learn how big a rivalry this is. Both teams have deep respect for one another, and tonight was a friendly competition,” Lawson said.

In addition to winning the 4×400 relay, the Flashes concluded the night by claiming the top two spots in the pole vault. For the Flashes, freshman Jeremy Brading and Erik Lindahl cleared 16-4.74 and 14-5.25 feet, respectively.

Kent State got out to an early lead Friday. The Flashes were victorious in the 60-meter hurdles behind the running of Greg Keys. In addition to securing victory in the 4×400, Inge claimed first place in the mile run. Senior Seth Hutchinson finished just behind Inge and took second place. The Flashes also claimed two of the top three spots in the 60-meter dash as Marc Johnson and Phil Rickaby finished first and third earning the Flashes valuable points and stretching their lead over the Zips.

Akron’s men started to cut into the deficit by winning both the 800-meter and the high jump. Akron sophomore Mike Baraona turned in a season-best time of 1:54.32, while junior Ryan Jones cleared 6-6 (1.98) in the high jump, edging out senior Shamel Smith of Kent State, who was previously undefeated in the high jump.

Akron then claimed the top three spots in both the shot put and 200-meter. Junior Auston Papay turned in another Akron season-best with a distance of 17.53 meters. In the 200-meter dash, Anthony Thomas of Akron turned in a winning time of 21.47, the best by a Zip this season.

After sweeping both the men’s and women’s 3000-meter race, the table was set for a classic finish in which the Flashes were able to emerge victorious.

“From a coaching standpoint, we had some poor meet management; we had some mistakes, and had some trouble getting kids to events early. We also tried some different combinations and lineups, and it almost cost us,” Lawson said.

While the men earned a victory, the women were not as fortunate. Senior Gabrialla Plocka and sophomore Ashley Rhodaback finished first and second in the women’s 400-meter dash. In addition Lawson said that Snell Shatira did an exceptional job. Shatira finished first in the women’s 60-meter hurdles. As for Akron, their women’s program is one of the best in conference, as they finished first in the MAC in 2005 and 2006.

Lawson said the women’s and men’s teams will get some much needed rest this week before heading to South Bend, Ind. For the Meyo Invitational on Feb. 2.

Contact track and field reporter Steven Voicik at [email protected].