The Ohio State track and field team this weekend will send 51 athletes — the most it has sent this outdoor season — to the Tennessee Relays, the most competitive meet so far this season in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The meet consists of several athletes who have had top-20 performances this year and several professional athletes and Olympians, including Justin Gatlin. This relay meet will feature a few added events from most normal track meets such as the 4×200-meter relay, 4×800-meter relay, sprint medley and distance medley.
Senior Cole Gorski believes this could be the first meet where most of the teams put their best foot forward.
“I think it could just be due to the prestige of this meet alone,” Gorski said.
Over the past few weeks, Ohio State has been spread out as a team. Only distance runners went to the Raleigh Relays, while just two pole vaulters went to the April Fool’s Meet. Ohio State also competed without its distance team last week at the Jim Click Invitational.
Ohio State isn’t an outlier in college track and field for doing this. Gorski said this is due to the indoor and outdoor seasons being so close together and the need to keep athletes fresh.
Gorski is coming off a memorable performance last week at the Jim Click Invitational, when he cleared 18 feet in the pole vault.
“It’s been such a long time coming because I’ve seen that bar and I think it took me seven meets of seeing that bar to finally jump it and get it to stay up there,” Gorski said. “All that was kind of built up and then when I was falling. And it’s still up there I was just like I don’t know. It’s just like an explosion of joy.”
Pole vault coach Richard Ebin said 18 feet is the mark of an elite college pole vaulter.
Gorski will compete against seven other pole vaulters that have jumped more than 18 feet, including Jake Blankenship, a Columbus native who placed third in the 2015 USA Track and Field Championships.
“You know when you’re on that stage and you’re not like the No. 1 guy, they kind of just gives you that push that you like alright,” Gorski said. “I’m going to hang with the best of them.”
Gorski’s main focus heading into this meet is to ensure he can smoothly get through the technical aspect of pole vault while keeping his trail legs as straight as possible for momentum.
Gorski is not the only Buckeye going up against professional-level talent. Ohio State’s 4×100-meter-relay team has already set the fifth-fastest time in school history and it will be going up against a newly formed, professional powerhouse.
The American ProForm Team comes with a loaded roster. Gatlin, 60-meter dash world-record holder Christian Coleman, Team USA member Ronnie Baker and Mike Rogers, an Olympian, comprise the team.
Senior Madison Roberts has been Ohio State’s strongest pole vaulter in school history, and she will have her worked cut out for her this weekend.
She will be going up against Duke’s Madison Heath, an indoor All-American, and Rachel Baxter, a second-team All-American.
Roberts has been working on her final steps in run-ups and has been trying to get on bigger poles.
Freshman Anavia Battle will be facing a familiar foe in Kentucky’s Kianna Gray, who beat Battle at the UCF Black and Gold Challenge. Since then, Battle has set a faster time this season.
Oliver finished second at the NCAA Indoor Championships in 2017 and is currently running for Nike.
Ohio State and Tennessee both have had fast 4×400-meter relay teams. At the NCAA Indoor Championships, Ohio State edged Tennessee by a mere .09 seconds. Earlier this outdoor season, the two competed against each other with slower lineups and Ohio State edged out the Volunteers.
The meet begins at 2:45 p.m. Friday in Tennessee.