Ohio State will open up its roster by sending 53 athletes to Nashville, Tennessee, for the Music City Challenge, a two-day meet filled with tough competition and national implications. There will be 12 events on Friday and Saturday with at least one NCAA national championship qualifier.
In the past two meets, Ohio State opted out of sending its full roster. This week, Ohio State is sending its full team, marking the season debuts for several athletes.
The 60-meter dash is filled with highly competitive sprinters who should create a close end result. Ohio State’s junior Nick Gray and senior Zack Bazile, as well as Southern Mississippi’s Cra’vorkian Carson and Memphis’ Davon Demoss, have top times that are separated by just .04 seconds. Carson has the fastest time at 6.64, which ranks 11th overall in the country, while Bazile is the slowest at 6.68, ranked 21st in the nation. The athletes with the top-16 marks will go to the national championship meet.
“In the 60 meter, it’s important to focus on body technique, how fast I’m getting out and not focus on what’s going on in the outside lanes,” Gray said.
Gray currently has a season-high mark of 6.66. That time would tie him for the last national championship qualifying spot, but that race was not counted by the NCAA. Since that race, Gray has been hampered by small injuries.
“My goal for this track meet is to leave healthy and not hurt,” Gray said.
Gray said he does not feel pressure to beat his personal record because he is currently more focused on his better events, the 200-meter dash and the 400-meter dash. Gray will make his season debut in the 200-meter dash and will run in 4×400-meter relay. Bazile has primarily been a jumper throughout his collegiate career, but ran a 60-meter-dash in 6.68 seconds two weeks ago.
“Zack’s always wanted to run on the track,” assistant coach Joel Brown said. “He has the opportunity to do that this year and it is turning out well for him.”
Redshirt sophomore Kendall Sheffield will make his track debut for Ohio State. Sheffield’s personal record in the 60-meter dash is a 6.70. He also plays cornerback for the Ohio State football team.
Bazile also is expected to have a big meet outside of the 60-meter dash. He has the farthest long jump by .35 meters heading into this meet. While Bazile set a personal best in triple jump this year, Southern Mississippi’s John Warren has the better mark on the season.
In the men’s 800-meter run, Ohio State junior Alexander Lomong has the top time this season. It will be the first 800 of the season for three of Virginia Tech’s runners, all of whom have faster personal records than Lomong.
The Buckeyes are having their best season in school history in pole vault. Cole Gorski has the pole vault record a 5.45 meters set last week, and junior Coty Cobb is ranked third all-time (5.35m).
They will be facing off against some tough familiar foes. Cincinnati’s Adrian Valles has beaten both Buckeyes and has the third-highest jump in the country at 5.61 meters. Michigan State’s Tim Ehrhardt has a personal record higher than Gorski’s, but Gorski beat Ehrhardt earlier this season.
The weight throw will be a showdown of the top-three collegiate throwers in the country and an Olympian. Junior Sade Olatoye is currently third with a throw of 22.76 meters, behind Cincinnati’s Ann Echikunwoke (23.69) and Mississippi’s Janeah Stewart (23.83). The top three will square off against Gwen Berry, a member of Team USA.
Olatoye, Stewart and Echikunwoke also will compete in shot put.
Freshman Anavia Battle will run in the 60-meter dash and the 200-meter dash. She is coming off first place finishes in the 60-meter dash (7.45) and 200-meter dash (23.79). Both finishes are the two best times this season for Ohio State. Brown said Battle is doing less weight training than her teammates and is focused more on bodyweight training and explosiveness to stay on track for this meet.
Senior Mikaela Seibert has the farthest personal best in triple-jump heading into this meet of all competitors, but Cincinnati’s Irati Mitxelena has the farthest mark of the season.