Sprinting throughout the streets and sidewalks at Youngstown State University, teams from 26 schools warmed their bodies in the cold weather, preparing for the YSU Invitational on Friday.
A plethora of different color combinations crammed the Watson and Tressel Training Site, waiting to showcase their talents anywhere from approximately 11:00 a.m. into the morning hours of Saturday.
Two years ago, 15 teams competed in the first indoor event in WATTS history. The numbers slowly increased each season, but nothing as memorable as this season with 52 teams — the largest in WATTS and program history.
“It’s one thing to put an event with that caliber on. It’s another to do well at that meet,” track and field coach Brian Gorby said. “YSU should be extremely proud to what went on this weekend.”
YSU performed well with six first-place finishes along with other Penguins finishing high. Along with competing against the other 25 schools, four are Division I programs (West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Duquesne and Virginia Military Institute).
“When you beat teams like Pittsburgh and West Virginia on both sides, I put ourselves at a pretty high level — a team capable of winning the Horizon League tournament,” Gorby said.
Out of the six first-place finishers, senior Ciara Jarrett won three events. She won the 60-meter dash with a time of 7.67, the 200-meter dash with a time of 24.88 and the long jump at 5.41 meters.
Senior Samantha Hamilton earned a first-place nod in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 16:37. She ran 1:14 faster than second-place finisher Jenny Delsignore from Duquesne.
“We really sat down with a game plan before about just trying to run an even race,” Hamilton said. “I went out a little slower than I would normally go, but we were just trying to see where my strength is now.
“The seconds started adding up, but I think it was as fast as I ran during the outdoor season. Based off just a strategic plan, I was really happy with what I did.”
The remaining two first-place finishers came from the men’s side. Senior Bobby Grace won the shot put, throwing 19.62 meters and beating the school record by 1.04 meters. Grace ranks eighth nationally on Track and Field Results Reporting System’s 2014 All-College Indoor Track List.
“I’ve always had high goals coming in, but it’s been a lot of work,” Grace said. “I’ve been incrementally increasing each year, so it’s good to be in the top 10, but I’ve still got a long way to go.”
Rounding out the first-place winners was senior Eric Rupe, his second defeat of the indoor track season. He won the 5,000-meter run with a time of 14:47.
“We’re starting to face some DI schools, so the level of competition is going way up, especially for Bobby because there are a lot of good throwers. It works out well,” Rupe said.
Grace, Hamilton and Rupe all agreed that Friday’s event helped prepare them for the upcoming events, including the Horizon League Championships that will be from March 1-2. YSU’s next competition begins on Jan. 31 at the SPIRE Invitational.
“On paper, if we can have those types of throws and jumps and distances, we probably have a really good shot of bringing it home,” Gorby said.