Day One: Frosty Performances Highlight Jesse Owens Classic by Dave Hunter

The midwestern region of the U.S. can give you rain, wind, sleet and snow, and this is in April. Running track and field outside in ever changing weather conditions is one of the challenges of meets in March, April and yes, even early May in the midwest. 

David Hunter, our roving correspondent of all things track and field, wrote two pieces on the Jesse Owens Track Classic, one of the nations' newer, but still, venerable meets. 

Chris Fallon-1.JPG                             Chris Fallon, photo from Ohio State University
2013 Jesse Owens  Classic / Day One
Day One: Frosty Performances Highlight JO Classic

April 19, 2013
Columbus, Ohio

Every spring as track & field moves outdoors, attention turns to the early season iconic invitationals - time-tested athletic gatherings at Florida, Texas, Drake, Penn, and Mt. SAC to name a few. The focus upon these traditional venues and their impressive heritages is not misplaced. But it is important to remember that there are other very good track meets - each dotted with impressive performances and spirited competition. All you have to do is look for them.

One such meet is the Jesse Owens Track Classic - now in its 28th year. If you're panning for golden performances, you can invariably find a few nuggets every year at the JO Classic. This Dave_Hunter_Right_On_Track.pngyear should be no different. The men's hammer throw will feature multi-time Olympian A.G. Kruger. Newly-minted sub-4:00 miler Chris Fallon will be showcased in the men's 1500. And Michael Hartfield should be the marquee performer in the men's long jump. Never heard of him?   In last month's Texas Relays, all Hartfield did was leap 26' 9" [8.15m] to break Jesse Owens' Ohio State University school record in the long jump. It was a mark that Owens set in...1936.

As the Day One twilight session got rolling, gray skies and a pesky swirling wind presented the athletes with a special challenge. And the 45 degree temperature clearly felt much colder.

Not unexpectedly, the troublesome, shifting winds played havoc with Friday's throwing events. In the women's javelin, Cincinnati's Emelie Larsson finally figured out the wind and captured the victory as her final two throws bettered all others.  Her 6th round winning heave measured 136' 8" [41.65m]. Men's discus victor Jarred Rome followed Larsson's lead. He, too, ultimately mastered the tricky wind shifts as his final two attempts gained him the win. Saving the best for last, Rome popped his final twirl out 204' 2" [62.22m].

Ohio State freshman Bill Stanley - who earlier this season began his NCAA career by setting the Ohio State school record in the javelin with his first attempt in his initial collegiate competition - dominated the javelin competition. Each of Stanley's three fair throws proved good enough to win, but the Buckeye's third heave of 221' 4" [67.46m] was his best.  Kent State senior Brian Florek [211' 2" / 64.37m] and Bryan Bunnell [196' / 59.75] joined Stanley on the awards stand.

In the women's discus, Cincinnati's Mary Bridges uncorked a final round effort of 168' 2" [51.26] to vault her into second place. But it was not quite good enough to unseat eventual winner Danniel Thomas of Kent State whose 3rd round toss of 171' 1" held up for the win.

A cautious start marked the opening laps of the women's 5000. Racers tucked in tight to escape the headwinds as 22 starters began posting 81 second laps;  By the kilometer mark, a tightly-knit pack of eight women - led by the Michigan State trio of Olivia Sydow, Megan Rodgers, and Melanie Brender - had broken away. At 3K, Jessica Odorcic of Cleveland Elite Development threw in a 75 second 400 to blow up the pack and gain an advantage she never relinquished. Odorcic covered the final 800 in 2:32 to ring up a winning time of 16:32.75. It gave her a comfortable margin over runner-up Juli Accurso [16:36.22] and third place finisher Becki Michael [16:47.01].

Undaunted by the wind, the field of 22 in the men's 5000 got right after it. Wade Mettles, a junior from Eastern Kentucky, looked bulletproof through 3 kilometers as his steady diet of 67-68 second laps afforded him a comfortable 25 meter lead with 5 laps remaining. After a baffling struggle over the next 400, Mettles retired and the race was up for grabs. Over the final 1200 meters Ohio State's Michael Brajdic and Michigan State's Caleb Rhynard - a pair of freshmen - dueled with senior Yosi Goasdoue of Eastern Kentucky. A decisive surge over the final 150 meters gave Rhynard the win as the Spartan crossed the line in 14:14.08. Brajdic [14:14.60] and Goasdoue [14:15.02] rounded out the podium.

Illinois junior Katie Porada steadily pulled away from the women's windswept field in the 1500 and never was headed. In control throughout, Porada cruised to a relatively stress-free victory in 4:26.78. Ohio University junior Melissa Hamilton [4:30.72] was well back in second and Samantha Hamilton [4:31.72] finished third.

Yet another Spartan prevailed in the men's 1500 as senior Josh McAlary upset pre-race favorite Chris Fallon. McAlary and Fallon were bunched in a four runner pack at the bell, but McAlary's 58 second final circuit proved too much as Fallon slowed dramatically and finally stepped off the track at 1300 meters. The Michigan State senior stopped the clock at 3:47.49 and was followed by Tony Jordanek [[3:48.20] and Brian Baum [3:50.49].

As darkness descended on an ever-colder Columbus evening, the water jump had to be no fun as 13 women began the 3000 meter steeplechase. Shortly after the starting gun, Ohio State's Brittni Hutton dashed to the front and built a 7 meter lead after two laps. But Dayton's Lizzie Gleason and Ohio University's Ashley Waddington had Hutton in their sights. After 1400 meters, Gleason and Hutton traded three lead changes over the next 200 meters until Gleason finally forged what appeared to be a commanding lead. But yet another competitor - OSU's Nicole Hilton - had raced wisely. Down 25 meters at the bell, Hilton launched a long push. She caught the Dayton junior as they entered the final straightaway together. Hilton's excellent momentum over the final barrier allowed her to beat Gleason on the run-in and post a winning time of 10:38.72.

The men's steeple closed the evening. Ben Miller - another Michigan State distance star - grabbed the early lead and pushed out to a 7 meter advantage after two laps. Keeping the pressure on, the Spartan junior built his advantage to 25 meters after 4 laps were completed. But the chase pack - led by Ohio State's Donny Roys and Bobby Over - had not abandoned the pursuit. With 2 laps remaining, Roys had closed the gap and was on the Spartan's shoulder. Roys took the lead with 700 meters remaining and sported a 4 meter advantage over Miller as the bell rang for the final circuit. But Miller had more in the tank. With a decisive move over the final 250 meters, the Michigan State junior sprinted past a now-struggling Roys to glide on to an easy win in 9:06.82. Taylor Head [9:11.17] - a freshman from Indiana State - bettered a wobbly Roys [9:12.98] on the homestretch to snatch the runner-up position.

And as spectators and athletes scampered through the chilly darkness and out of Jesse Owens Stadium, their thoughts had already turned toward the competition - and warmer temperatures - that would await them on Day Two. 

~Dave Hunter

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