By Jeff Brown
The Youngstown State University track and field team is on the verge of becoming one of the top mid-major programs in the country, and that talent was on display last weekend at the SPIRE Midwest Indoor Open and the Penn State National invitational.
At the SPIRE, throwers Jaynee Corbett and Conner Neu stole the spotlight, both finishing in first place in the weight throw and shot put.
Coming off her second ACL reconstruction, Corbett has established herself as one of the top throwers in the conference. Corbett suffered a complete ACL tear to her right leg last January, which caused her to miss a majority of last season.
“I give all my credit to my strength coach and my trainer here, because I just did what they told me to do,” Corbett said. “No one really gave up on me, and we just pushed through it and now we’re here, better than we were before.”
Corbett believes the injury gave her a new mindset that will be beneficial to her as she competes this season.
“One thing it’s definitely gave me is the mental toughness,” Corbett said. “Going from less than a year ago, when I couldn’t even fully extend my leg, to now, just fully functioning … , it worked out how it’s suppose to work out.”
For the men, Conner Neu continued his impressive season in both the shot put and weight throw. Neu is hoping to achieve first-team All-America this season in the weight throw and to do so must place in the top eight in the country.
“I made second-team All-American in outdoor two seasons ago, and last year I had a rough year, but this year I’m coming out strong,” Neu said. “I already qualified for indoor, but the goal is top eight this year.”
Neu also hopes to earn a spot in an Olympic qualifier once the outdoor season is underway.
“I’m just very fortunate that my last year in college falls on an Olympic year, because now everything that I’ve done so far in college is all going to accumulate at the end, and I get to take it one step further and throw at the Olympic Trials,” Neu said.
At the Penn State National Invitational, Chad Zallow was once again the shining star for the Penguins as he broke his own school record in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 7.79 seconds and finished in third for the event. The record also places Zallow at seventh in the nation.
Head coach Brian Gorby called the Penn State National Invitational the biggest meet in the nation as many of the top runners throughout the NCAA compete in the invitational.
“It’s just incredible, the talent level and the coaching,” Gorby said. “It was historical for us. We usually take four or five to Penn State. We took 24 to Penn State this year. Just the national level that our program’s at, in my eyes, is definitely historical.”
Up next for the Penguins is the YSU National Invitational on Feb. 5-6 at the Watson and Tressel Training Site. Gorby said that this marks the time of year where the individual athletes stop to focus on themselves individually and start to focus on the team goals.
“We kind of set up the meet like it’s a preview of the Horizon League Championships,” Gorby said. “We start to move from the individual side of things to more of a team type focus.”