MOUNT PLEASANT – Central Michigan's two NCAA National Championships qualifers, Ryan McCullough for the men and Milica Kulidzan for the women, are emblematic of a tale of two teams, both representative of the nature of their respective squads.
For one weekend, beginning June 6 and ending June 9 in Des Moines, Iowa, these two student-athletes – McCullough, a senior putting the final touches on a tremendous CMU career, and Kulidzan, a true freshman laying the foundations for an outstanding career – will represent both the past and the future of CMU track and field, but each will seek to capitalize on and make the most of their opportunities in the present.
McCullough, a hammer thrower who qualified for Nationals with a 10th place finish at the NCAA East Preliminaries on Friday, is one of the elder statesmen of the track and field program. After five years of dedicated training with CMU, McCullough is reaping the rewards at the highest levels. With a mark of 207-03 at the East Prelims, his mark ranked 17th among competitors at both the East and West Prelims.
His 210-07 mark that won the 2012 Mid-American Conference championship is a school record and the 15th best in the nation this year. That throw, fueled by the extent of his training and the support of dozens of Chippewas cheering him on, earned him Outstanding Field Performer honors and helped lead the Chippewas to a third-place showing as a team.
The team he helped lead was filled with veterans just like McCullough, who have all put in years of hard work to make the men's track and field program what it is today. Each of the Chippewas' three MAC Champions – McCullough, Branden Post in the 400m hurdles and Alex Rose in the discus – was either a senior or a junior, and all of the NCAA Prelims qualifiers but one were seniors.
McCullough's qualification for the National Championships, the first of his career, represents the hard work of the past being rewarded in the present.
Kulidzan, while working just as hard as did McCullough to qualify for the women's javelin with a sixth-place, school-record throw of 154-10 on Thursday, hails from a much younger women's team. A true freshman herself, she also represents the present, but from the perspective of what the future may hold.
Like McCullough, Kulidzan also broke a school-record en route to a second-team All-MAC performance in the javelin, which was the best finish of any Chippewa on the women's team. She led a group of three women East Prelims qualifiers, two of which were true freshmen – Kulidzan and hurdler Bridget Doughty. Kulidzan made it through to Nationals as the 18th ranked thrower in the field, based on the performances at the East and West Prelims.
Though the women finished ninth at the MAC Outdoor Championships, they improved from their 10th place showing at the MAC Indoor Championships. Of the 13 point-scorers for the Chippewas, six were either freshmen or sophomores. The future is looking bright for the women as young standouts like Kulidzan are poised to develop even further beyond what they have already accomplished in just one year.
While this chapter may come in different points in the books of McCullough's and Kulidzan's careers, the topic of both is the same: make the most of the present opportunity.
Kulidzan will attempt to become CMU's second All-American in the women's javelin, joining Karen Wilkinson in 1991 … Kulidzan is the first CMU women's student-athlete to qualify for the outdoor national championships since sprinter Najah Floyd and jumper Jackie Smart did so in 2007 … She becomes the first student-athlete from the women's team to qualify for either the indoor or outdoor championships since high jumper Erika Schroll in 2010 at the Indoor championships … between the East and West Preliminary results, Kulidzan is ranked 22nd heading into Des Moines.
McCullough is building on a growing tradition of CMU men's throwers. Dating back to the 2009 outdoor season and including the indoor championships, a total of seven men's throwers have qualified for six of the seven national championships with three All-American honors … McCullough will attempt to become the first men's hammer throw All-American in school history … he will attempt to become the first MAC Outstanding Performer/All-American at CMU since Jeff Powers in 2007, and the third overall (Bruno Pauletto in 1978) … between the East and West Preliminary Results, McCullough had the 17th best throw.