Before the Horizon League Championships began on Saturday at the Watson and Tressel Training Site, coach Brian Gorby showed his Youngstown State University women’s track and field team a shirt he’s had since 1997.
On the shirt read “‘Mid Con’s best just got better,’” referring to when YSU last won the Triple Crown — titles for cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field — as a member of the Mid-Continent Conference.
The men won that prestigious accomplishment during the 1997 season. This season’s women’s team is not far behind after winning the indoor championship on Sunday, Gorby’s 20th title. The Penguins won the cross-country title earlier this season.
“That just separates you from being just a good conference team when you can dominate all three seasons,” Gorby said. “That shows you you’ve got a complete program and a complete group of kids.”
In a nutshell, everything possible had to go wrong for YSU not to win, and nothing did. The Penguins won by 80 points, the highest margin of victory in program history, with 171 overall. The University of Detroit Mercy finished second with 91 points.
After the event concluded on Sunday, the Penguins ripped a white box wide open and wore the championship T-Shirts and hats. When asked what wearing them felt like, Ciara Jarrett broke into a dance.
“We’ve set this up for almost three or four years,” Gorby said. “We’ve said that this would be our biggest year with our seniors. When we built this building, we figured this would be the year. All five phases are working with sprints, jumps, throws, distance and the vault.”
Defending her title for the fourth consecutive year, Jarrett set the tone by winning the 200-meter dash with a time of 24.61 seconds. It marked her second title of the 2014 Horizon League Championships.
“Winning the 200 feels real good because my family and I, especially my dad, wanted me to be the first to win the 200 indoor four years in a row,” Jarrett said.
Samantha Hamilton secured her first indoor title. She won the 5,000-meter run with a time of 17:08 even when she wasn’t 100 percent.
“I was looking for [three wins] this weekend, but I just have some things that have been lingering for a while,” she said. “I don’t think I’m 100 percent back yet. It definitely proved that this weekend, but the team championship is really awesome, especially coming off of cross country.”
Mackenzie Sturtz won the high jump with a leap of 1.69 meters. It also marked YSU’s seventh consecutive high jump title. Jennifer Neider won the women’s shot put with a toss of 14 meters. It is her second consecutive title in the conference championships and marked YSU’s fourth straight.
Any Penguin did not have to win a title to make a huge impact. Alexis Cooper finished sixth in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:16.31, marking her fastest time this year.
“She’s been struggling with that 800 a little bit by just running that same time,” Hamilton said. “It’s very consistent, but she could never pop over that 2:17, 2:18 mark. For her to run 2:16 back to back was a big deal.”
The Penguins that earned Horizon League Performance Awards were McKinsie Klim (Track Freshman of the Year), Nicole Waibel (Field Freshman of the Year) and Gorby (Women’s Coach of the Year).
“We had a lot of newcomers, so for the newcomers to step it up and help out the older crowd win the conference is just a blessing,” Jarrett said.
With other events in-between, the conference outdoor championships will run from May 2-4 as the Penguins strive for that Triple Crown.
“After today winning by as many as we did, I think that as long as everybody stays healthy and gets healthy, it shouldn’t be a problem for us,” Hamilton said.
If YSU wins its 21st title and no room left on his toes or hands, a pierced earing might be a possibility for Gorby.
“We’ve got all ten toes and all the fingers,” Gorby said. “This one was for the thumb. It never gets old.”