photo by Margaret Hunter
2012 Jesse Owens Track Classic / Day Two
Buckeyes Shine -Even If Sun Didn't
by Dave Hunter
Columbus. Ohio. In a complete reversal of the beautiful spring weather that prevailed on Day One, Day Two of the 27th annual Jesse Owens Track Classic opened with cool temperatures, a leaden sky, and a persistent rain which played havoc with the athletes. With dangerously slick runway conditions plaguing the field events and damp, wet conditions altering warm-up routines, the competitors did what Midwestern athletes do - they soldiered onward.
And while the sun never shined during the final day, the talented men and women athletes of The Ohio State University frequently did. Obviously comfortable on their home track - and not unaccustomed to the fickle spring weather in Columbus, Ohio - the Buckeyes sprinkled in several outstanding performances throughout the day. Led by All-American and 7-time Big Ten champion Christina Manning and frosh sprint phenom Tim Faust, the OSU contingent was clearly the standout team on the final day of competition.
The Buckeye women got off to a fast start by dominating the 4 x 100 relay. With Manning running a sparkling third leg, the OSU squad won handily in 44.55. A stuttering final exchange likely prevented the Buckeyes from taking down the 25-year-old meet record of 44.34. Less than 40 minutes later, Manning returned to compete in the 100 meter hurdles. The much-anticipated hurdle dual between Manning and nationally-ranked Tiffany Porter never materialized as Porter DNSed. No matter. Running into a suddenly-stronger rain, Manning ran away from the field. Her winning time of 13.06 just missed the stadium record of 13.05.
Mary Wineberg - an experienced non-collegian - held off a couple of fast finishers down the stretch to win the women's 400 in 53.02. Her winning time - no doubt impacted by the tough weather conditions - will have to get seconds better to allow her to make some noise in Eugene at the Olympic Trials.
The host school kept the momentum going in the women's 400 meter hurdles as Nyjah Cousar, an Ohio State junior, caught the race leader on the run-in after the final hurdle, timed her lean perfectly, and ran 58.98 to nip runner-up Chelsea Carrier-Eades of West Virginia University by .04 seconds.
Miana Griffiths broke the OSU juggernaut in the women's 100 meter dash. Griffith's winning effort in 11.69 relegated the Ohio State duo of Madison McNary (11.77) and Chesa Sykes (11.86) to second and third.
Facing increasing rain, Cincinnati's Kathy Klump (2:09.36) employed a wire-to-wire race tactic to capture the women's 800. The Bearcat had just enough left in the tank to hold off a fast finish unfurled by Purdue's Kari Shoolbraid (2:10.12).
OSU was back on top in the 200 as Ohio State freshman Aisha Cavin's 24.24 bested the field. Cavin would come back at the end of the day to run a gutsy anchor leg on the OSU's winning 4 x 400 relay team. The freshman's determined sprint down the final straight was just enough to hold off a game Eastern Michigan quartet and give the Lady Buckeyes a final time of 3:45.12 and a narrow .09 second margin for the victory in the meet's final event.
In the rain-plagued field events, top performances were a rarity. In the women's long jump, Purdue senior Leah Eber popped an opening leap of 21' 2" which was good enough for the win. The scenario was identical in the women's triple jump, as Michigan State freshman Tori Franklin opened with a first round jump of 40' ½" - a mark which withstood all other challenges throughout the competition.
The women's throws produced some drama. In the shot put, the top three finishers were separated by a mere 2 inches. Zara Northover's fourth round heave of 51' 7" was just enough to best Nia Henderson (51' 5 ½") and first round leader Dani Bunch (51' 5') of Purdue. In the hammer, OSU soph Alexis Thomas opened with a first round leader of 188' 10". Thomas relinquished the lead in the second round when Brook Pleger unleashed a throw of 193' 6". But Buckeye senior Maggie Mullen claimed the lead - and the win - with a winning throw in the fifth round of 196' 4".
Domination was also prevalent on the men's side of the competition. In the opening 4 x 100 relay, expert baton passes by the Buckeyes gave their anchor man, freshman sensation Timothy Faust, a commanding lead. Unthreatened down the final straight, Faust ran hard through the raindrops to post a winning time of 40.94 - a commendable mark under difficult conditions.
As was the case with the Buckeye women, the dominating win in the short relay just seemed to inspire the OSU men. From that auspicious beginning, the host team methodically began to string together a series of winning performances. First, Ohio State sophomore Marvel Brooks led from the gun to ring up another win for the host team, capturing the 400 in a time of 47.64. Next up was 100 and the Buckeyes continued to roll. Faust, just 40 minutes from his strong anchor leg in the short relay, got out strong, crossed the tape in 10.75, and held off Purdue's Mario Cosey [10.79] for a rain-swept win. Cosey would return the favor later in the afternoon - besting Faust in the 200. Cosey's narrow victory [21.77 to 21.80] in the furlong denied Faust his third trip to the top step of the podium.
Ohio State was not yet done. In the 400 hurdles, the Buckeye foursome of Antonio Blanks (52.56), Luke Norris 952.74), Marcus Brooks (52.78), and Demoye Bogle (53.90) swept the top four spots.
But Ohio State did not win every event. In the 110 hurdles, Unattached Jeff Porter (13.67) powered out of the blocks and ran unthreatened to victory over California [Pa.]'s Brice Myers and OSU's Demoye Bogle. And in the 800, Ian Boyle - Friday night's winner in the 1500 - was denied a distance double under unusual circumstances. Boyle, who kicked perfectly to win Flight One of the 800 in 1:51.55, stood helplessly by as Eastern Michigan's Josh George, running in
Flight Two, bettered Boyle's time by .14 seconds and was awarded the victory.
Much pre-race buzz surrounded the men's mile. Fans anticipated a marquee battle among meet and stadium record holder Rob Myers, reigning USATF steeple champion Dan Huling, versatile distance star and the 2011 RunOhio Runner of the Year Brian Olinger, and promising OSU miler Cory Leslie. The rain increased as the race began. A troublesome hip forced Olinger to step off in the second lap. As the rabbit lead the field through 800 in just a tick over 2:00, the crowd sensed that Myers' meet and stadium record of 3:59.43 could be in jeopardy. But an ever-increasing pace over the final two laps broke the race open and the Buckeye junior cruised to an easy victory in 4:01.99 - a five second margin over runner-up Myers. Huling, never a threat, was third.
As was the case with the women, the incessant rain forced the men to struggle in the field events. Purdue's Geoff Davis easily won the high jump with a leap of 6' 10 ¾". Taylor Stewart captured the long jump with a best mark of 24' 6 ½" - nipping OSU's Mike Hartfield by 1 inch. And in the triple jump - an event where only two athletes posted all of the event's three clean jumps - Samuel Okaney won with a leap of 47' 5".
The sole exception to the legion of athletes who struggled in the field events was that wily veteran A.G. Kruger. Traveling in from nearby Ashland - the home of Jud Logan's Hammer Nation - Kruger destroyed the field in the hammer. In an event that is rendered truly treacherous with a wet ring, Kruger launched 5 fair throws and won the event with an impressive heave of 244' 1" - over 23 feet better than his nearest competitor. Indeed, his shortest throw would have been good enough to claim the victory - by over 12 feet. Looks the two-time Olympian and multiple national title holder is on a very nice glide path to the Olympic Trials. Dave Hunter