There's a big month of February ahead of Ashland University's men's and women's indoor track and field teams.
But before the calendar flips, there's one more weekend of January action for the No. 1-ranked Eagle men and No. 8-ranked AU women – Friday and Saturday (Jan. 25-26) at the Penn Nationals and Findlay Alumni Classic.
Going into Penn and Findlay, the Ashland men and women have combined for six automatic and 24 provisional marks for 2019 NCAA Division II indoor nationals, March 8-9 at Pittsburg State (Kan.). One of the most intriguing events so far has been the men's 200-meter dash, where AU has four sprinters who would be in the national meet – sophomores Trevor Bassitt (third in D-II, 21.35 seconds), Channing Phillips (ninth, 21.59 seconds) and Kainnan Ramsey (14th, 21.64 seconds), and freshman Tim Rumas (16th, 21.67 seconds).
"That is probably why Mr. Ernie Clark was named associate head coach," said Jud Logan, Ashland head coach. "I'm so proud of the job he's doing, and the culture he's creating. At conference, you're allowed to have three people (in an event). (Later), if you have a fourth that's provo NCAA, you can put four in."
Then, the rule was changed to five in each event at the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference if a team has that many provos – which Ashland could have if senior Myles Pringle eventually provos later in the season.
"They want to be great, and there's competition between them," Logan said.
In addition to the 200 dash, Bassitt has the top men's 60 hurdles time (7.90 seconds) in Division II.
"I can't say enough about Trevor's work ethic, his attention to detail," said Logan. "He's the first one to practice, he's the last one to leave. That's a coach's dream."
The Eagle men are looking to possibly put a distance medley relay together at some point this season – and the efforts of sophomore distance runners Ian Johnson and Sam Shockey have allowed that to become a possibility.
"As of a week ago, the chance for a DMR was 10 percent," said Logan. "Now, after watching Sammy Shockey and Ian Johnson in the mile, I think that we've got the mile piece, I think we've got the 800 piece, we've certainly got the 400 piece. It's a matter of finding either that miler stepping down or that 800-meter guy stepping up. I would love nothing more than to have the distance crew with us when we go (to nationals)."
Ashland's men earned the top spot in the country this week for the first time indoors since March 6, 2017. Those rankings, however, mean little once indoor nationals start, and performances need to be earned on-site.
"As soon as you go No. 1 in the country, you have a target on your back," Logan said. "The kids were excited, but it's different. The first time we were ranked No. 1, I think we had a little bit of a letdown. Now, it's got them working so much harder, because they realize that the rankings have shown that they don't mean the final outcome of the meet."
The Eagle women have ascended this season as Logan has predicted in recent years. There are some athletes in various events, however, who are looking to get off the bubble and into the national meet.
In the women's weight throw, seniors Natalie Helenthal and Mackenzie Leigh are locks for nationals, but sophomore Gianna DiPippo and redshirt freshmen Lindsay Baker, Carrol Pauley and Taylor Kroll all seek to better their standing. In the women's shot put, Baker has the top mark in the nation (16.73 meters/54-feet-10¾), but DiPippo is near the cutoff line, and another redshirt freshman, Elizabeth Weimer, is looking to join them.
"I'd like to see Lizzie break out here in the next couple weeks," Logan said.
Junior pole vaulter Amber Otermat is another one Logan is seeking a next level from in the coming weeks.
"You look on paper, and it's no height, no height, no height, but I met with her on Sunday, and she still feels really good about where she is right now," said Logan, "and that she's going to have her breakthrough."