Months of training and competition for Ashland University's indoor track and field teams will culminate in the 2019 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships, Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 23-24) at Saginaw Valley State.
On the men's side, the Eagles are ranked No. 2 in NCAA Division II – one spot ahead of Grand Valley State.
"If you scored the meet out by the lists, we lose to them by 20 points," said Ashland head coach Jud Logan. "In four events – 800, mile, 3K, 5K – they beat us 104-1, based on the lists. So we need some other guys to step up and break up some of those points.
"When ninth becomes eighth, that's not only a point, but that takes a point away from potentially someone else. When a sixth flips to a fifth, that's a huge swing in points. So it can be close, and we can have the meet of our life, and still lose by 20 points."
Ashland men at the top of the GLIAC lists going into the weekend are sophomore Trevor Bassitt in the 200-meter dash (21.20 seconds) and 60 hurdles (7.90 seconds), senior Myles Pringle in the 400 dash (46.12 seconds) and high jump (2.19 meters/7-feet-2¼), sophomore Brent Fairbanks in the weight throw (22.27 meters/73-feet-0¾), and the two top 4x400 relay teams (3:12.97 and 3:13.61).
The women's side is an uphill fight, as the Lakers are No. 2 in the nation and the Eagles sit at No. 10.
"They're the best set up for conference, and obviously ranked No. 2 in the country right now, in the United States. They're that good," Logan said. "Our women fighting for second isn't any sign of failing. We're looking for the women just to continue to make strides.
"The focus and the approach for the women is just to go out and keep moving the program forward, and, hopefully, adding some people to the ones who are already going (to nationals)."
Eagle women who are ranked No. 1 in the conference heading into the weekend include redshirt freshman Lindsay Baker in the shot put (16.73 meters/54-feet-10¾), junior Ellie Jindra in the high jump (1.72 meters/5-feet-7¾) and senior Natalie Helenthal in the weight throw (19.88 meters/65-feet-2¾).
Senior Mackenzie Leigh moved up the national weight throw list last week at Kent State and is ranked No. 9 in the country at 19.02 meters/62-feet-5.
"She's worked really hard this season, and 19 meters was a big goal of hers," said Logan. "The good news with both her and Natalie is both of them hit lifetime bests at the NCAA meet last year to get their first All-Americans in the weight, so we're going to have them set up with similar programs."
As always is the case at the GLIAC Championships, the meet is two-pronged – strive for top marks at the conference level, while also continuing to jockey for position for 2019 NCAA Division II indoor nationals, March 8-9 at Pittsburg State (Kan.).
Ashland's men and women have been the picture of consistency at the conference level since joining the GLIAC in 1995-96. The Eagle men have been GLIAC champs four times, second 13 times, third twice and fourth four times. The Eagle women have won GLIAC indoors once, been second 18 times, third three times and fourth once.