Saturday, May 29, 2010

Underclassmen have much to look forward to after eighth place finish

A No. 1-ranked team finishes eighth, and yes, there was some disappointment. Disappointment for both our coaches and out athletes. But, there are 400+ other NCAA Division III schools that have men's track programs that can't say they finished in the top eight, and McMurry did it, almost exclusively with non-seniors.

Cory Altenberg and Thomas Dimitri were the two seniors on the men's team that saw 10 all-America awards this weekend at the national meet including Dimitri. A young core of sprinters along with Terry Smith who will come back next year as a senior. Two pole vaulters have eligibility remaining on the men's side, and then of course, there's the recruiting season that always seems to bring in new talent that is ready to compete at the national level.

In retrospect, yes McMurry would have loved to bring home its second outdoor championship in three seasons, but McMurry and head coach Barbara Crousen will continue to build on their juggernaut for the 2011 season.

I enjoyed my time covering this year's national meet and enjoyed the successes of our athletes and coaches. I hope our McMurry fans, who've followed this blog and have enjoyed the coverage as well.

This will officially wrap up the 2009-2010 school year and its athletics calendar. For you blog followers, I apologize for my inconsistency this year, but I hope you'll continue to come back to this page for tidbits and insight on McMurry's athletics programs. I blame some of my sporadic blogging on finishing my master's degree, and my goal next school year is to be more dedicated to what I believe to be a very valuable outlet.

I will update some in the summer on little bits and pieces when I can, but we'll heat it up again for football training camp beginning in August.

Stay tuned ...

Headed towards the final stretch

There is exactly one hour before McMurry's last event, the 4X400-meter dash. We've scored a few points today, and the goal for head coach Barbara Crousen is to finish in the top four teams, which ensures bring home an NCAA trophy.

Through the 400-meter finals, with the high jump, discus, 200-meter dash, the 5,0000-meter run and the 4X400-meter relay to go, McMurry is in seventh place with 17.5 points needing nine points to pass Springfield College for fourth. In addition, they'll have to pass Amherst (sixth) and Wisconsin-La Crosse (fifth). Both Springfield (26.0 points) and Amherst (18.0 points) are finished scoring, however, La Crosse has 23 points and has the 4X400-meter race to go.

McMurry's last event will also be the 4X400-meter race and will need to win the national title to take fourth place while La Crosse will have to finish in seventh or eighth place out of eight teams.

Stryker Pena (pictured) cleared the first bar at 6-6 in the high jump, but failed to advance on the 6-8 height. Although the final results are not in, it's unlikely the Pena finished in the top eight to score points.

McMurry scored points today with Kevin Cunningham finishing fourth in the 400-meter hurdles where Terry Smith finished eighth; both earned all-America status. The men's 4X100-meter relay team placed fourth with a time of 41.38 (0.35 seconds slower than their qualifying time). That team consisting of Kenneth Turner, Trevon Odom, Gavan Bass and Josh Zu-Bolton earned all-America status for their performance.

The 4X400-meter relay team consists of Kevin Cunningham, Terry Smith, Marcus Thompson and Kolby Barnhill. McMurry enters the finals with the sixth-best qualifying time, running in lane seven; the event begins at 4:55 p.m. EST.

We'll wrap it up later tonight

Friday, May 28, 2010

0 for 3 on day two - McMurry needs a big day tomorrow

So far, it hasn't turned out like McMurry University's No. 1-ranked men's track team wanted it to at the outdoor national track meet. On day two, Terry Smith missed qualifying in the 110-meter hurdles while Gavan Bass and Josh Zu-Bolton were kept out of the 100-meter dash finals by fractions of a second.

Yesterday, I was at the stadium for just over seven hours, while today, it only took an hour for all three athletes to be done today. This sets up a very big day three for McMurry if they want to compete for a trophy (top four finish). Kevin Cunningham and Terry Smith have guaranteed points in tomorrow's 400-meter hurdles as they are already guaranteed all-America status with just eight places remaining for the final run tomorrow. In addition, Stryker Pena will try and crack into the top eight in the high jump. And of course, McMurry will need a strong showing in both the 4X100-meter and 4X400-meter relays.

McMurry has 6.5 points after day two. Read the official release from today's events by clicking here.

For the rest of the track team, coach Holmes and I along with volunteer assistant track coaches Jason Reeves and Randy Willis went to down town Cleveland and explored for a while and made a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Another long day in store tomorrow, and McMurry is due for some success.

Stay tuned ...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Reflections on Day 1

In case you missed today's official recap, click here. In case you missed EITHER of the two photo galleries, click here and here. If you didn't see the YouTube Video of our men's 4X100-meter relay race, click here.

Now, on to more business. There's good news and bad news. The bad news is, overall, in my humble opinion, we underachieved a little bit today. The positives included what is to come with both relays qualifying and with Smith and Cunningham advancing to the finals in the 400-meter finals. On the women's side, Breana outperformed her seeding, which is all you can ask four.

In the men's pole vault, Cory dropped to ninth, but Thomas was able to jump up to a tie for seventh with Stephen finishing fourth. At the end of the day, we were seeded to have two athletes score points in the men's pole vault, and they did.

The long jump and the 200-meter race hurt us as none of our athletes were able to reach the finals. With North Central College already at 23 points, McMurry will have their work cut out for them in the next 48 hours.

That brings us to the good news. Along with the aforementioned relay teams and 400-meter hurdle athletes advancing, there is still a chance for Stryker Pena, Gavan Bass, Josh Zu-Bolton and Terry Smith to qualify in individual events. There's much potential for McMurry to score points and make a run at the title, now we'll have to wait and see.

I thought Breana's story was a great one; already a three-time all-American between indoor and outdoor - she battles an ankle injury all year, and jumps nine spots from her No. 15 seed to earn all-America status for the third-straight year in the outdoor long jump. Congratulations and kudos to her!

Also, there have always been pole vaulters on both the men's and women's side at McMurry, and in large part because of six-time national champion Brad Parris as the assistant coach. I know that Brad was proud to see Thomas Dimitri (pictured) close out his senior season and career with another all-America finish. Dimitri finishes his career with two-straight all-America finishes in the top eight at outdoor nationals and was a key part in four-straight ASC titles for the men. Congratulations to Thomas and it looks like the three teammates he competed alongside today will help carry on the McMurry pole vault legacy.

The McMurry men have 6.5 points heading into tomorrow, it was 92 degrees in Berea today and felt an awful lot like home. Tomorrow calls for 79-degree weather, that will be a welcome change, and maybe momentum can swing back in McMurry's favor on the men's side as well.

It's been a long day, but I'm looking forward to two more ...

Stay tuned ...

Thursday Update No. 1

Day one Part One PHOTO GALLERY

McMurry is busy today, leaving me very little time to provide updates, but I'm going to give at least one today (right now) before I go out and get the rest. Holly Rollins' (pictured) junior season came to a disappointing end earlier this afternoon. Two weeks ago, she jumped 12-09, however her knee, which she's had surgery on twice since winning the national title as a freshman in 2008 - flared up today and she was unable to clear 11-10 to advance. Head coach Barbara Crousen said she battled her knee warming up and gave her best effort.

Meanwhile it appears that Breana Anderson-Burton will reach the finals later this afternoon. She jumped 5.61 meters, and the second flight of athletes is still competing, but she is sitting fourth, and she must finish in the top nine.

With the men's pole vault, 400-meter hurdles (prelims), and men's 4X400-meter relay (prelims) to go today, the 4X100-meter relay team won their heat, and finished fifth to advance to the finals, which is scheduled for Saturday at 1:10 p.m. Gavan Bass, Josh Zu-Bolton, Trevon Odom and Kenneth Turner competed today in the 4X100. Below is the video of their preliminary run with Turner starting out and Zu-Bolton finishing. There is no zoom on my Flip cam, but you get the idea:

Stay tuned ...

What to expect for Thursday

For the McMurry men to win their second outdoor national title in three years, Thursday could prove to be a very crucial day. While much of McMurry’s participation today will be in the preliminary rounds of the 4X100 and 4X400-meter relays as well as the 400-meter hurdles and 200-meter dash preliminaries, six athletes have a chance to begin scoring points today in the pole vault and the long jump.

The tandem of Stephen Toler, Cory Altenburg, Thomas Dimitri and Brock Steinbock all qualified for the pole vault. If all four, or even three of the four McMurry athletes could place in the top eight, not only would they receive all-America status, but they would score team points for McMurry. The event begins at 5 p.m. EST.

Based upon each of the athletes’ top jumps this season, two of the four athletes (Toler and Altenburg) are projected to finish in the top eight while Dimitri is on the bubble at ninth and Steinbock ranks 13th. Toler had the second-best jump in the nation at the last-chance meet in Abilene May 20 with a jump of 17-00.75 while Altenberg has the fourth-best jump this season when he jumped 16-08.00 April 1. McMurry could use Toler and Altenberg staying put or moving up a spot, and then the senior Dimitri will look to break into the top ten along with the freshman Steinbock.

In addition, two McMurry men will participate in the long jump (6 p.m. EST) with the top two marks in the nation coming in. If Stryker Pena and Gavan Bass can hold these top positions, it would mean key points for McMurry heading into the final two days.

On the women’s side, both competitors will be done after today. Holly Rollins competes in the pole vault and Breana Anderson-Burton competes in the long jump.

Rollins will actually be the first McMurry athlete we see in action as she attempts to complete her come back after two knee surgeries and return as national champion. The women’s pole vault begins at 1 p.m. and Rollins, the 2008 outdoor champion, enters as the No. 5 seed with a season’s best jump of 12-09.00. She jumped 12-10.25 as a freshman in 2008 to win the title, so she is just behind the pace of her career best.

Anderson-Burton’s longest mark of the season in the long jump is 18-09.75 and she ranks 15th out of 19 entrants headed into the national meet. She’ll have her work cut out if she wants to break in the top eight to earn her fourth career all-America award between indoor and outdoor track. The women’s long jump begins at 3 p.m. EST.

The men’s 4X100-meter relay preliminaries begin at 4 p.m. EST, the men’s 400-meter hurdle preliminaries begin at 5:20 p.m. EST, the men’s 200-meter dash preliminaries begin at 6:15 p.m. EST and the 4X400-meter relay preliminaries begin at 7:25 p.m.

Coach Holmes and I will head to the meet around Noon and will try to catch up with Rollins and the rest of the McMurry track team.

Stay tuned …

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

National Outdoor Track Coverage is HERE

Even having worked in sports information for now nearly eight years, I have been to only a handful of college track meets. However, this year I'm headed to Barea, Ohio for the 2010 NCAA Division III Outdoor Championships to give McMurry University some very much deserved publicity. Considering the amount of athletes that come out of this region to the national meets, McMurry is a minority. In Division III, track has been consistently dominated by midwest and northeastern schools. However, head coach Barbara Crousen (2010 South/Southeast Region Coach of the Year) has made the track program a mainstay in the division, highlighted by the men's national outdoor championship in 2008. Not only was it track's first ever team national championship, it was McMurry University's first team national championship of any kind since the school opened its doors in 1923.

So, this year, the first without McMurry phenom Hann Ollison, the men's team hasn't missed a beat and was a perfect 8 for 8 this season as the No. 1-ranked team in NCAA Division III by the weekly USTFCCA polls beginning in April.

I, along with athletics director Ron Holmes, will be soaking in three days of track and field action. While will have all the "official" information, our true track fans should check this blog for constant updates. We will hopefully be bringing you videos, photos and mini-feature stories as well as general updates throughout the day with official recaps on the main athletics page in the evenings.

I will depart from the Abilene Regional Airport tomorrow (Wednesday) and will be there Thursday ready for action. In the mean time, here are some key links in case you've missed them:

Release about the 15 athletes headed to Barea, Ohio for the national meet
Baldwin-Wallace College's official host page of the meet
Full List of Men's entrants
Full List of Women's entrants
McMurry's career list of record and all-Americans through 2009