January 5, 1999
January 5, 1999 – The Ohio State men’s and women’s track team look forward to the start of the indoor season this weekend at the Ohio State Invitational. Joining Ohio State on Sat., Jan. 9 at 10 a.m. in the meet are the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore (men and women), Western Carolina University (men and women), Morgan State (men and women), Alabama (men) and Morehouse (men).
The Ohio State men’s and women’s track teams gear up for the indoor and outdoor seasons with differing expectations of success-the women are hoping to win the Big Ten Championships, while the men continue to progress and hope to improve in the Championships. Both teams, however, have a goal of improving and building on their past success and look to continue the tradition of excellence that has grown synonymous with Ohio States track and field program. Head coach Russ Rogers looks to challenge in the Big Ten with women Dominique Calloway and Donnica Merriman. While fewer in numbers, the men are headlined by sophomores Andrew Pierce and Ian Connor, who have proven undaunted by the strength of the Big Ten and have turned in a string of accomplishments throughout the year, in summer world competitions for both, and on the cross country course for Connor. Equally important are the leadership expectations for the senior class, led by Joe Crallie (East Sparta, Ohio) and Abeida Benjamin (Brooklyn, N.Y.), among other strong contenders.
CHAMPIONSHIP GOAL NO HURDLE FOR WOMEN
Rogers anticipates the tandem of returning All-American hurdlers, junior Dominique Calloway (Aurora, Colo.) and sophomore Donnica Merriman (Trotwood, Ohio), finishing first and second throughout the course of the indoor and outdoor seasons. “Dominique won the Outdoors in the 100 meter hurdles. She also ran on the relay team that finished second,” Rogers said. Calloway placed sixth in the 100 meter hurdles at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and was also fifth in the 55 high hurdles at the Big Ten Indoor Championships. “Donnica won the 100 meter hurdles at the Big Ten Indoor Championships and was second at the outdoors. She was also the anchor for the 4×100 relay team that placed second.” At the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Merriman placed seventh in the 100 meter hurdles. “This year,” Rogers continued, “well be expecting more from Dominique and Donnica because well really be concentrating on the 100 and 200 Outdoors and the 60 and 200 for Indoors. They will give us a good 1-2 punch and between the two of them and should allow us to score about 50 points.” Joining the strong force for the women, and providing a spark in the multi-events, is returning sophomore Desiree Jones (Akron, Ohio), who placed second in both the Big Ten Indoor and Outdoor Championships in the heptathlon. Senior Ta-Meika Brown (Long Island City, N.Y.) is expected to contribute in the middle distance events after finishing the cross country season, as well as fellow senior Ayanna Reece (Bronx, NY) in the 600 Hurdles. Freshman Rhondalynn Crawford (Cleveland, Ohio) looks to replace the spot left by sprinter Shanda McJunkins in the 200 and 400-meter events. “We dont put a lot of pressure on the freshmen,” Rogers said, “but shes capable of coming in and doing the same thing as Dominique did. Were certainly looking forward to that.” Junior transfer Carrie Alexander (Columbus, Ohio), no stranger to NCAA competition after qualifying previously for Indoors, will also be relied upon to strenghten the team in the 800 meters. “At the end of last season,” sprints coach Candy Young said, “I think our team finally came together as a whole after the Big Ten Outdoor Championships.” “Everyone finally reached a point where they realized they were Buckeyes and wanted to show that pride,” Young said. “I think we can carry that momentum into the Indoor Big Ten Championships and probably be in the top three with our women, then build upon that success when the Outdoor season begins.”
PIERCE AND CONNOR LEADING WAY FOR MEN
Rogers also expects continued success from sophomore sprinter Andrew Pierce (Yellow Springs, Ohio), who is coming off a sixth-place performance in the 400 meters at the World Junior Championships held in Annecy, France last summer. Pierce placed fourth in the 400 meter dash at the Indoor Big Ten Championships and third at the Outdoor Big Ten Championships. Additionally, he was part of the first-place 4×400 meter relay team. “Andrew really had a great year and were expecting him to come back and win the 400 in the Indoor and Outdoor Big Ten Championships,” said Rogers. Another Buckeye that competed at the World Junior Championships and will give the team strength in the distance events is sophomore Ian Connor (Lexington, Ohio). Competing in the 3000-meter steeplechase, Connor placed seventh and has been able to do well in both cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field for the Buckeyes. He finished 15th overall at the NCAA Championships in November, earning All-American honors and capping off a spectacular cross country season that included wins at Notre Dame and Tennessee. Junior David Gonzalez (Bolingbrook, Ohio) and freshman J.J. ORielly (Dover, Ohio) are expected to provide additional depth in the distance events at the conclusion of the cross country season. Both runners had a successful year in cross country, with ORielly proving a solid back-up to Connor and Gonzalez in the longer distance events. Gonzalez finished 23rd at the Cross Country Big Ten Championships. The duo of Reggie Germany (Hazlewood, Mo.) and sophomore Ryan Grear (Barnesville, Ohio) will reunite to challenge each other throughout the course of the season in the hurdles. Germany was a member of the winning Big Ten 4×4 Championship team and also placed fourth in the 110 meter hurdles. He and Grear will be joined by sophomore Edison Francis (St. James, Trinidad) and Leandre Liggins (Cleveland, Ohio). Senior Marlon DeLeon (West Indies, Trinidad) will add depth to the 200 and 400 meter relay teams.
KEYS THE KEY IN THROWING EVENTS
Junior Karen Keys (Carrington, N.D.) returns in the shot put, and throwing coach Ron Backes is excited for the season. “Karen made great strides last year in the Indoor Big Ten Championships and were looking for her to start placing consistently this year,” he said. Keys placed eighth in the shot put at the Big Ten Indoor Championships and 11th at the Outdoor Championships. Freshman Katie Craig (Hilliard, Ohio) should also help in the throws. “Shes very athletic and has a tremendous amount of potential,” said Backes. “In addition, she is a great student and will be a quality member of the team.” Entering his second season as the Buckeyes throwing coach, Backes has recruited a large number of Ohio athletes to fill his roster. “We are excited that Ohio has so many good young athletes with such an amount of talent. Weve gone from a dearth of athletes in the throwing events last year to a lot of athletes with tons of potential.” Backes is also optimistic about the male throwers. Freshman Andrew Saurer (Smithville, Ohio) was the State Division III champion and joins fellow freshman Aaron Bilovecky (Centerville, Ohio), who will have a strong chance to place in the Big Ten Championships.
Junior pole vaulter Mark Kovitya (Lancaster, Ohio) promises to give the Buckeyes a scoring chance. He placed 13th in the Big Ten Indoor Championships and tenth in the Outdoor Championships. “Mark should improve from last season,” coach Jack Warner said. “We are looking for him to score in the Big Ten Championships.” Junior Cory Johnson (Muskegon, Mich.) and freshman Rob Aldredge (Vandalia, Ohio) also should provide depth in the pole vault. Team captain Crallie increases the Buckeyes’ chances in the long and triple jumps. He was a potent scorer for the team during the outdoor campaign last season.
The WISDOM OF SENIORS
The Buckeyes will look to seniors Joe Crallie, Jason Addington (Zoarville, Ohio), Marlon DeLeon, Abeida Benjamin, Ayanna Reece (Bronx, N.Y.) and Cathy Rejouis (Calgary, Canada) to lead them through the thick of the indoor and outdoor season this year. “They are expected to bring their wealth of experience to the track this season,” said Young. “This group has the ability to perform extremely well and serve as models of success for the younger athletes.”
EXPECTATIONS FOR SUCCESS
Rogers is enthusiastic and excited about the possibilities the upcoming indoor and outdoor seasons hold. The Buckeyes stand to amass a large number of points with the duo of Calloway and Merriman on the womens front and contenders Connor and Pierce for the men. Combined with a solid roster of returnees and newcomers, the Ohio State team will certainly be a powerful squad throughout the season as they gain momentum throughout the course of the indoor season and should continue that successful campaign outdoors. Transfers Alexander and Brian Ely (Jr., Circleville, Ohio), an SEC scorer from Arkansas, bring their own winning experiences to bear upon the season. “With the men,” Rogers said, “we would like to finish in the top four indoors and outdoors.” “With the women, we want to win both Championships. If no one gets hurt, we have a good chance of winning.”