The 2017 NCAA Division II indoor track and field nationals will be a busy three days for Ashland University's men's and women's teams.
And there might just be a bit of history made, as well.
A total of 19 Eagle athletes – in 14 events and two relays – are in Birmingham, Ala., for 2017 indoor nationals, Thursday (March 9) through Saturday (March 11) at the Birmingham CrossPlex.
"We're excited. Everyone seems to be healthy," said Ashland head coach Jud Logan. "There's nothing you can really do at this time of year to get better. There's a lot of things you can do to get worse."
Of those 19 athletes, 14 are men – nine in individual events, as well as the 4x400 and distance medley relays. The Ashland men have been the top-ranked team in the country from start to finish during the regular season, and they never have won a team national championship, so…
"We let the kids know what rankings are," said Logan. "I go back to the Alabama football game at the national championship, ranked No. 1 for all of those weeks and they lost in the championship to a team (Clemson) that was better on the day.
"All rankings are is if everybody has the perfect meet, who would win? So if we have the perfect meet, and Adams State has the perfect meet and Grand Valley has the perfect meet, we would win the national championship. No one's going to have the perfect meet."
Sophomore Myles Pringle enters nationals with the top 400-meter dash time (46.11), the second-best high jump (2.17 meters/7-feet-1½) and as part of the fourth-best 4x400 relay team (3:12.59) in the country. The possibilities for Pringle at nationals seem endless.
"You look back to people that were of similar ability, and you can't find anybody," Logan said. "What makes Miles unique is the fact that he not only is he the top 400-meter sprinter in Division II, but he is one of the top three high jumpers. He could potentially have a very busy NCAA championships."
Ashland comes into Birmingham with four of the top five men's weight throwers in the country (junior Daniel Roberts first, 22.20 meters/72-feet-10), and two of the top five men's shot putters in D-II (junior Elijah Talk third, 18.15 meters/59-feet-6¾).
"Coming into the year, my goal was to have a front-end relay, a back-end relay and be strong in the throws," said Logan. "We knew Myles was going to do some of the things that he was going to do, but we got that DMR, we got that 4x4 at the end of the meet. Now, it's my job as that position coach to make sure we do what we need to do in the throws to score the points that's going to relax some of the other team members into having their normal meet.
"I like this group. I like where their mentality is. We've got to rake in 20 points in the weight throw. If we get 20 points there, we will be in a good position."
Logan said winning a team national championship is a bucket-list item for him.
"The one that's missing on the resume is a (team) national title," he said.
On the women's side, senior Megan Tomei goes into nationals as the top seed in the shot put (15.91 meters/52-feet-2½) and with the fourth-best weight throw (20.21 meters/66-feet-3¾) in the country.
"We're not going to sit here and diminish the fact that we've had a goal of winning a national championship in the shot put," Logan said.
Joining Tomei will be the Eagle women's youth movement of sophomore weight thrower Natalie Helenthal, sophomore Samantha Duale in the 60 dash and freshmen Paula Wollenslegel (high jump) and Amber Otermat (pole vault).
"We like that young group moving forward," Logan said, "and we know that there's some other kids and some of the recruits who are hungry to add to that number. We're excited about what the women can do in the future. It's hard to do a lot of damage at nationals with five, but we'd like to go Top 15 and see if we can't do a little better."
ASHLAND MEN'S NATIONAL QUALIFIERS
- Bryn Campbell, senior - weight throw
- Jordan Crayon, senior - weight throw
- Nick Hall, senior - mile run
- Alex Hill, freshman - weight throw
- Myles Pringle, sophomore - 200 dash, 400 dash and high jump
- Daniel Roberts, junior - shot put and weight throw
- Elijah Talk, junior - shot put
- Jason Zahn, senior - shot put
- Nick Zak, freshman - weight throw
ASHLAND WOMEN'S NATIONAL QUALIFIERS
- Samantha Duale, sophomore - 60 dash
- Natalie Helenthal, sophomore - weight throw
- Amber Otermat, freshman - pole vault
- Megan Tomei, senior - shot put and weight throw
- Paula Wollenslegel, freshman - high jump