After five years, Ashland University's track and field program once again will have the opportunity to play host to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Outdoor Championships.
The 2018 edition will be Wednesday-Friday (May 2-4) at the Dwight Schar Athletic Complex.
"Any time you host," said Ashland head coach Jud Logan, "where you get to stay in your own bed, stay in your own meet-day preparation without getting on a bus or a van, drive three, four, five hours, eating out…the preparation's in our favor."
At the 2018 GLIAC Indoor Championships, the Eagle women finished in the second place, and the AU men third. Logan has said for years that his program is geared to be a nationals team, not a conference team. But being at home – does that mindset change this week?
"I hope it does," Logan said. "If you look at the rankings, and you score meet out on paper, it's going to be Tiffin and Grand Valley (State) fighting it out for No. 1, and us probably 30-40 points back. Well, a lot of that can swing. We're going to have to score where we're supposed to score, and then we're going to have to score where we're not supposed to score.
"Conference meets are never perfect for anyone. It's not played on paper, just like a football game."
Junior Myles Pringle, who has won four indoor GLIAC titles and two outdoor conference championships, is the league pacesetter this spring in the men's 200-meter dash (T-14th in Division II, 21.08 seconds), the men's 400 dash (first, 45.57 seconds) and the men's high jump (fifth, 2.14 meters/7-feet-0¼).
In the throws on the men's side, sophomore Alex Hill is the GLIAC leader in both the discus throw (sixth, 54.49 meters/178-feet-9) and the hammer throw (third, 64.35 meters/211-feet-1).
A wild card for the Eagle men could be sophomore Arthur Greenlee IV, whose top time this spring in the 110 hurdles (14.38 seconds) is .18 seconds away from the 16th-best time in the nation.
"Arthur is rounding into shape, probably better than anyone," said Logan. "We need him to step up and finish in the top three in the hurdles. (Freshman) Trevor Bassitt hasn't run a short hurdles in probably five weeks, but he showed that he's certainly fit. I like the direction that that event is going."
In the 400 hurdles, Logan thinks three Eagles can get on the podium – freshman Travis Moore, senior William Robinson and Bassitt.
"I think that's going to be an exciting event," Logan said.
On the women's side, senior Megan Tomei is the top-ranked shot putter in the conference, and fifth in Division II, at 15.44 meters/50-feet-8, while in the hammer throw, Ashland's trio of junior Mackenzie Leigh (eighth in D-II, 58.6 meters/192-feet-3), Tomei (11th, 57.75 meters/189-feet-6) and junior Natalie Helenthal (15th, 56.32 meters/184-feet-9) are the top three in the conference.
"She's not safe," Logan said of Helenthal in terms of making outdoor nationals, "but her mark has consistently made it in. She's not satisfied at all. We've fixed some things with her, and we think she's ready to go 56-plus, which would put her strongly into the conversation."
An X factor for the AU women could be sophomore Gariana Bercheni, whose top time in the 200 dash (24.51 seconds) is three-tenths of the second away from getting into the top 16 in the country.
"She popped into the long jump this weekend, because she just wanted to see if there is another place that she could help us," Logan said.
Logan also is looking for big things in the women's javelin throw, where freshmen Romi Smith and Taylor Dziatczak and senior Hannah Bartlome are the top three competitors in the conference coming into the week.
Ashland's men won the GLIAC outdoor title a season ago, and have never finished lower than fourth since joining the league in 1995-96. The Eagle women were sixth outdoors in 2017, and prior to that, had never finished lower than fourth at a GLIAC outdoor championship.