Daniel Zaas / Lantern photographer
The Ohio State women’s track and field team will look to add to its groundbreaking season at the NCAA East Regional preliminaries, set to begin Thursday in Bloomington, Ind.
After claiming both the indoor and outdoor Big Ten Championships, 13 Buckeyes will compete in the qualifying rounds of the NCAA Championships.
Leading OSU will be junior sprinter and hurdler Christina Manning, the top seed in the 100-meter hurdles. Manning will also be participating in the 100-meter dash and the 4-by-100-meter relay. Senior Letecia Wright, junior Madison McNary and freshman Chesna Sykes also will compete in the 4-by-100-meter relay.
Big Ten outdoor triple jump champion, junior Kelcey McKinney, is the 16th seed and will look to carry momentum from her recent championship into this weekend.
Junior sprinter and Big Ten Champion Shaniqua McGinnis is competing in the 400-meter dash.
Other Buckeyes competing are Alana Gray, in the 100-meter hurdles; Nyjah Cousar, in the 400-meter hurdles; Ella Birmingham, in the 10,000-meter run; Ashley Galbraith, in the high jump; Norianna Brown, in the shot put; Alexis Thomas and Maggie Mullen, in the hammer throw; and Mullen, in the javelin.
After outperforming conference competition at regular-season meets and the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, the women’s 4-by-100-meter relay team is set to make a run at nationals. All-American and Big Ten Indoor and Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year Manning will anchor the fourth-seeded team in the East preliminaries.
Coach Karen Dennis said she has faith in her relay team.
“We know that we’ve got four strong runners,” Dennis said. “This team is one of the best relay teams I’ve ever coached.”
Competing along with Manning will be Wright and McNary. In her first season, Sykes has adapted well to the competition and attributes her success to her teammates.
“I feel like we have consistently ran good times and we work hard at practice and the results are shown at every meet,” Sykes said. “As a freshman, I feel so honored to be on a relay team with Madison, Tish and Christina. They are all amazing role models and runners and they really help the relay come together and win.”
During their freshman year at the Big Ten Championship, Manning and Wright fumbled the baton exchange in the 4-by-100-meter relay event. Since then, the team has grown and continued to perform at a high level.
“We have this chemistry,” Manning said. “It’s a tight bond there.”
Despite the team’s success, Dennis and her athletes aren’t yet satisfied.
“I think we’ll come out of the region, and, more importantly, they believe they’re supposed to be out of the region,” Dennis said. “I believe this team has the ability to be on the podium at the national championship.”
It’s not just the titles that have made Dennis proud — she said she’s learned as much from her athletes as they have from her.
“I think that they are smart,” Dennis said. “I think that they’re highly opinionated. I think that they are confident, and I think that they’re courageous. And that’s what I’m most proud of.”