A look at the action coming up on Friday and Saturday at Eastern Michigan's Bowen Field House.
The MAC Indoor Track and Field Championships will be held this weekend at Eastern Michigan. As a one-time MAC runner myself (way back when Bowling Green had a men’s team), I thought I’d let the Hustle Belt faithful know about the meet and give you enough knowledge to go out and watch it.
Where: The meet will be at Eastern Michigan’s venerable facility, the Bob Parks track, inside Bowen Fieldhouse. Here is a Google map link.
When: The meet will be on Friday and Saturday. There will be events going on most of each day, but the casual fan should show up (or tune in) for the running event finals, going from 6:20 to 7:45 on Friday and 1:15 to 4:45 on Saturday. A full event schedule is available here.
Tickets: Available online or at the door, $10 per day or $15 for a two-day pass. A sellout is a real possibility, as the seating is fairly limited.
Webcast: Free and available at mac-sports.com
Who: All 12 women’s conference members plus the five men’s teams that compete in indoor track (Akron, Buffalo, CMU, EMU, and Kent State)
A Guide for the Uninitiated
I’m guessing that few of you are hardcore track fans like I am, so here you go. The events are the usual spectrum of running, jumping and throwing contests you know from the Olympics or other track and field competitions, with a few adjustments for the limitations of an indoor arena.
The men’s and women’s championships are scored separately but held concurrently, with events switching back and forth between the two.
Team scores are on a points-for-place basis. The top eight places score in the women’s meet (on a 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis), but only the top six places score in the men’s meet (10-8-6-4-2-1) since there are only five teams competing.
If a team streaks out to an early lead, it’s usually not a reflection of getting a hot start but that the team in question is better at the events held early in the competition—and, because no one is great at everything, they’re probably not as good at the events held later in the competition. The same goes for a team that comes roaring up from behind.
If you’re going to watch this via the webcast, it’s essential that you also keep a window open with the live results. It’s the only way to easily keep track of the team score. You probably want to do the same with a web browser on your smart phone if you go see the meet in person.
The way to predict who is going to win a meet is by a "dope sheet". You make some sort of prediction for each event and then add up scores. Of course, things never come out exactly the way you predict, but this gives you a starting point.
The overall number of entries in each event is capped at 20 in the women’s meet and 12 in the men’s meet, with qualifying determined by best time/height/distance achieved during the regular season. Teams are limited to three entries per event.
My dope sheet says that the meet will be a three-way battle between Akron, Eastern Michigan and Kent State, with the Zips rated as slight favorites. This would continue a trend; the last seven indoor championships were won by one of these three.
Akron, the two-time defending champions, has its strengths in the technical events: the hurdles, the vertical jumps, and the heptathlon (the truncated indoor version of the decathlon). Their leaders are a senior and a freshman. The first is Tyshaun Peoples, who is the favorite to win both the 60 meter hurdles and the long jump. The latter is lone true superstar in the meet, pole vaulter Shawn Barber. A Canadian by way of Texas (it’s complicated), Barber broke the national high school record last year, broke the Canadian indoor junior (U20) record this winter, and is close to breaking the overall Canadian indoor record. He’s a contender for the NCAA indoor title in this event, which would make him the MAC’s first NCAA track champion since Eastern Michigan’s Boaz Cheboiywo won the 10k national title in 2002.
Also look for possible event wins for the Zips in the 800 meters from Gabriel Genovesi and in the high jump from Martel Durant. But mostly, this is a very deep team with good athletes in many events. That helps in riding out the bumps in the road that are going to happen when you have seventeen events over two days.
Eastern Michigan’s strengths are in the distance events and the long sprints. In particular, they are going to lean on star runner Terife Ejigu, the reigning MAC cross country champion who took a long and winding road to Ypsilanti. He is signed up for triple duty, running the mile, the 3000 meters, and 5000 meters, and is capable of winning all three. Teammate Grzegorz Kalinowski is his main competition in the mile, having just missed the four-minute barrier two weeks ago.
Other athletes who could post wins for the Eagles are Matthew Williams and Cameron Bolton in the 200 meters and 400 meters, and triple jumper Donald Scott. Eastern also rates as favorites in the relays, the 4x400 and the distance medley.
Like Akron, Kent State has depth and balance across many events, but has fewer opportunities to pile up big points. Heptathlete Dexter Shreve and weight thrower Matthias Tayala are favorites in their events. If the Golden Flashes post a few upset wins in other events, such as the 800 meters or 400 meters, then they could make a run at the title.
The battle to stay out of the basement looks to be between Buffalo and Central Michigan. The Bulls have a potential two-event winner in sprinter Miles Lewis, and plan on maintaining their strong shot put tradition with Jonathan Jones. If the Chippewas are to win an event, it looks to be by either distance runner Kyle Stacks or by sprinter Diavonte Smith.
Events to watch
The two relay events are always fun, and they’ll carry weight in the team competition too. Friday night’s distance medley relay (legs of 1200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters and 1600 meters) is a must-win event for Eastern Michigan. The 4x400 relay will conclude the meet on Saturday afternoon, and a championship often comes down to this last race.
The pole vault has Akron's Shawn Barber, is as strong a favorite as there is in this meet. He just might be able to break the Canadian national record, which stands at 18' 6½" (5.65 meters).
The 800 meters, slated for 3:15pm on Saturday, is probably the least predictable event (both in this meet and in general). Look for a three-way battle between Akron’s Genovesi and Kent’s Swords and Roper, but others could squeeze in as well.
Kent State rates as the strong favorite to repeat their title from last year. The Golden Flashes are led by sprinter Shanequa Williams and jumper Dior Delophonte. They could win half of the events being contested, maybe more.
The battle for second place looks to be between Eastern Michigan and Akron. The Eagles’ top scorer will probably be distance runner Victoria Voronko, a contender for titles in the mile and 3000 meters. Akron’s strengths lie in the field events, with good chances to pick up wins in the pentathlon, shot put, long jump and pole vault.
The middle of the pack is likely to be Toledo, Western Michigan, Miami and Buffalo. The Rockets strength lies in the distance races, as always, with freshman Mackenzie Chojnacky in the hunt for a win in the 3000 meters and 5000 meters. Western Michigan will lean on Iris Campbell, an ironwoman of a pentathlete/quarter-miler/long jumper, and their 4x400 relay. Miami and Buffalo could struggle to win an event.
Events to watch
Ohio's Juil Accurso is entered in both the mile and 3000 meters and rates as a big question mark. She broke the MAC record in the 5000 meters last winter but then spent the spring abroad in France (she’s a French language major) and hasn’t quite been the same since then. Stil, she’s a contender in both of these races and could pull off an "upset" or two, if you could call it that.
The high jump should be a good battle between Kent State’s Dio Delophont and Eastern Michigan’s Tatijana Jacobson. The two have never jumped against each other, as Delophont is just a freshman.
As always, the 4x400 relay is a good race to watch. Western Michigan and Kent State look to have a tight battle for this one.
Come Sunday, I'll have a complete recap of the meet, with photos and interviews.