This article is part of a series being published in the week leading up to the Mid-American Conference Championships May 10-12 in Mount Pleasant. Check back frequently for continued coverage.
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - With the Mid-American Conference Track and Field Championships rapidly approaching, Central Michigan will be counting on two event groups who are accustomed to rapidly approaching the finish line-the sprinters and hurdlers.
With competition set to begin Thursday, student-athletes in these two sprint groups–the largest on the team–are poised for success after a year of hard work.
The Chippewas have multiple competitors in almost every sprint and hurdle event on the men's side who have positioned themselves into a top-eight scoring position, based on times to this point in the season. The younger women's team doesn't have the depth of the men's team in these events, but several Chippewas are ready for strong performances to stay in scoring position and move into scoring position.
Sophomore Ross Parsons leads the way for the sprinters as the top 100m and 200m dash runner, as well as a crucial component to the conference-leading 4x400m relay team and the anchor leg of the fifth-ranked 4x100m relay team. His 10.57 in the 100m dash at the Al Owens Classic at Grand Valley State ranks third among all MAC student-athletes, and his 21.75 200m dash at the Western Kentucky Hilltopper Relays is the fourth-best in the conference.
Fellow short sprinter junior Greg Knaus has also positioned himself well in the 100m dash with a time of 10.60 at Grand Valley State that is ranked fourth in the conference, and in the 200m dash after a 21.91 performance at Grand Valley State that puts him in eighth. He also runs a leg of the 4x100m relay.
Senior David Ashcraft will also play a crucial role as the team's top 400m dash runner and the anchor of the 4x400m relay. His time of 48.33 at the Al Owens Classic ranks fourth in the MAC. Ashcraft demonstrated how valuable he is as the anchor leg at that meet as he gave everything he had to outkick a hard-charging Grand Valley State runner on the final straightaway of the relay to claim first.
The 4x400m relay team, also featuring sophomore Clay Holman and senior Christopher Thomas, will look for a measure of revenge for their runner-up finish to Akron at the indoor championships. Though the Chippewas did break the school record, they were edged out by the Zips by just .14 seconds in an incredibly tight finish.
The reigning indoor 60m hurdles conference champion junior Renaldo Powell has translated his success into the outdoor season. He currently ranks third among MAC student-athletes in the 110m hurdles with a time of 14.37 at Western Kentucky. He also runs a leg of the 4x100m relay.
Having won the 400m hurdles conference championship in 2010 with a time of 52.40, senior Branden Post brings a measure of outdoor championship experience to the hurdles. Going into the outdoor championships he is ranked fourth in the 400m hurdles with a time of 53.17, which he ran at Grand Valley State.
Sophomore hurdler Cory Noeker has blossomed into a consistent and important contributor for the Chippewas this season, ranked fifth in the conference in the 110m hurdles and sixth in the 400m hurdles. Noeker ran a 14.46 at Grand Valley State in the 110m hurdles, and a 53.69 in the 400m hurdles at the Lyle Bennett Open.
Fellow sophomore Parker Scott is ranked just behind Noeker at seventh in the 400m hurdles with a time of 53.74, also at the Lyle Bennett Open.
The women's team is lead by a pair of underclassmen. Freshman Bridget Doughty is currently ranked seventh in the conference in the 400m hurdles with a time of 1:01.84 at the Lyle Bennett Open. She also runs a leg of the 4x400m dash.
Also in that 4x400m relay team and the Chippewas' top 400m dash runner, sophomore Shawntoreah Turk will be an important competitor for the women's team. She is ranked eighth in the MAC with her 55.31 in the 400m dash, which she ran at Grand Valley State.
A number of CMU women not currently ranked in the top eight will look to run strong races and jump into scoring position. Short sprinters freshman Diamond Hamilton, senior 100m dash school record holder Dierra Riley, senior Kirlene Roberts and sophomore Kelsey Ritter will look to score in the 100m and 200m dashes, and the 4x100m relay.
Freshman Ravyn Baxter will be strong for the Chippewas in the 400m dash and the 4x400m relay. The 100m hurdles effort will be led by junior Tamica Harbour. In the 400m hurdles, senior Stephanie Hurley – converted from a 400m dash runner to a 400m hurdler just this season – and sophomore Megan Heffner will try to add more points in the Chippewas' championship effort.
Memorable Moments in MAC Championships History – Sprinters/Hurdlers Edition
The sprinters and hurdlers at CMU are part of a long tradition built on many conference championships and national recognitions throughout the years. This tradition has been shaped, in part, by such sprinters as Najah Floyd, Johnie Drake and Pierre Vinson, and such hurdlers as Kari Karhoff, Greg Richardson, Courtland Pitt, Al Washington and Barry Alexia.
Most recently, Floyd won both the 200m dash (23.66) and the 400m dash in 52.29, which was not just the MAC Championships record, but also the all-time MAC record. her record still stands today.
Drake helped his team to a second-consecutive MAC Championship in 2006, winning the 100m dash (10.30) and the 200m dash (21.08) en route to earning Most Outstanding Performer honors.
In the two years prior to Drake's phenomenal 2006 championship performance, fellow sprinter Pierre Vinson had also swept the 100m and 200m dashes. In helping the Chippewas to their second-ever outdoor MAC Championship in 2005, Vinson took both the 100m dash (10.47) and the 200m dash (21.25) and won the Most Outstanding Performer award.
The year prior, he also won both races with times of 10.52 and 21.59.
Kari Karhoff won not only the 400m dash in 2000 (52.99) and 1999 (54.51), but also the 400m hurdles in 2000 (58.34). She is the only CMU student-athlete, male or female, to win both the 400m hurdles and dash races in the same MAC Championships.
In 1999, hurdler Greg Richardson not only won the 110m hurdles championship, but he also set the MAC Championships record in the event with a time of 13.6. That record still stands today, along with his all-time MAC record of 13.59. He went on to earn All-America honors with a third place finish at the NCAA National Championships.
Courtland Pitt made a mark on the MAC history books with his performance in 1992, when he won both the 110m hurdles (14.23) and the 400m hurdles in a MAC Championships-best 50.15 – a record that still stands today. For his exceptional performance he was named the Most Outstanding Performer.
The hurdles in the late 1980s were owned by CMU's Al Washington, who collected a total of five conference championships. He won both the 110m hurdles and the 400m hurdles in 1986 (14.38 and 51.28) and 1989 (14.38 and 51.07) and the 400m hurdles again in 1990 (50.87). In 1988, he also set the all-time MAC record in the 400m hurdles with a blistering time of 49.90.
Alexia won the 400m hurdles in 1978 with a time of 50.77, which remained the MAC Championships record until it was bested in 1987. Only two student-athletes since have recorded a faster time at the meet. He went on to earn All-America honors that same year.