2017-18 IN REVIEW: Ashland University's men's track and field team finished second in NCAA Division II outdoors, and fourth in the country indoors. Junior Myles Pringle won two national titles in the 400-meter run, and teamed with freshmen Channing Phillips, Trevor Bassitt and T.J. Elliott to win the national title outdoors in the 4x400 relay. The Eagle women placed in a tie for 24th at nationals outdoors, and tied for 29th indoors – their best showings since 2015.
PRINGLE'S FINAL EAGLE ENCORE: In his first three seasons as an Eagle, Pringle has earned five national championships and 14 All-American awards. He also is the fastest men's 400 dash runner in the history of D-II indoor competition.
So what is left for Pringle entering his senior season?
"He's come so far," said Ashland head coach Jud Logan, "not only in his times and his All-Americans, but his confidence level. What he did this year for us was amazing, then going to the senior USATF Championships and making it through all three rounds to the finals…he wants nothing more than success for this program. He knows his trajectory goes well beyond his time here.
"I know that he wants to leave with a team title, and I think he's going to do everything he can from his own perspective, but we can't win it with just Myles alone."
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2018-19: To that end, the Eagle men will be deep in many phases of the team. In sprints, Phillips, Bassitt, Elliott, Brenden Archer and Kainnan Ramsey all return as sophomores who are looking for success both individually, and as a potential repeat 4x4 national champion.
"With the group that (associate head coach) Ernie (Clark) now has, those three spots (besides Pringle) are not set in stone," Logan said. "There are kids that want to get on that team, and we don't play favorites. The four fastest guys are going to run."
In the throws, juniors Alex Hill, Nick Zak and Jake Glass, sophomores Brent Fairbanks and David Amstutz, and seniors Jim Toth and Stephen Pop lead a group which proves to be formidable year in and year out.
Toth is a thrower Logan singled out, saying, "Jim's a guy that I believe if he gets to the NCAAs, he can score for us. He's that kind of a competitor. He's been such a team leader. He wants more than that, and I want more than that for him."
"We've always got a plethora of quarter-milers that we can throw on that DMR at indoors," Logan said. "It's a matter of finding the right opportunity to get that qualifier in."
Ashland's women, barring injury, will feature no less than eight high-quality throwers in seniors Natalie Helenthal and Mackenzie Leigh, sophomore Gianna DiPippo, and the redshirt freshman "Fab Five" of Lindsay Baker, Taylor Kroll, Carrol Pauley, Makayla Pop and Elizabeth Weimer.
"It's going to be a big year for that women's group," said Logan. "Those two (Helenthal and Leigh) are going to lead. The backbone of that team is the year that Natalie and Mackenzie had in the weight."
Helenthal is the No. 1-ranked returning D-II indoor weight thrower on the women's side based on last year's nationals finish (third).
There is versatility on the women's side in the form of junior sprinter Gariana Bercheni, junior high jumper Ellie Jindra, senior sprinter Samantha Duale, sophomore javelin thrower Romi Smith, junior pole vaulter Amber Otermat, sophomore sprinters Rachel Miller and Maddi Yingst, and junior multi-athlete Paula Wollenslegel.
Of Wollenslegel, Logan said 2018-19 is a breakout season for her, adding, "We know that she's talented enough. She certainly works hard enough. We're about two inches short of where we need to be. She's somebody that just brings a fresh inspiration to practice every day."