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2012 Track and Field Season - Jesse Owens Banquet Program.JPG
Jesse Owens Program, photo courtesy of Margaret Hunter


Track & field in the Midwest has a special aura, a unique feel. The west coast has its training Meccas, its resident elite athletes, and its legions of knowledgeable fans. The east coast has its engrained tradition and storied venues like Franklin Field and Madison Square Garden. But Midwest track & field features a certain salt-of-the-earth purity for the sport that is all its own. And it was evident this past weekend in Columbus, Ohio

On Friday afternoon at precisely 4:00 p.m. and under perfect springtime conditions featuring sunny skies and cool temperatures, revered track & field announcer Bill Melton officially announced the commencement of the 27th annual Jesse Owens Track Classic. Melton, who has been a track & field fixture for over 47 years, will retire next month. He is in the victory lap of a career which has featured, among other things, a 40 year tenure as the announcer of the Texas Relays. At a celebratory dinner held the night before, meet organizers honored Melton with a special award in recognition of his outstanding service and dedication to the Classic since 2004.

With meet under way, the abbreviated afternoon schedule featured some spirited competition in the throws.

In the Women's Javelin, Canadian Vicki Webb, nursing a recovering partial bicep tear in her throwing arm, grabbed the early lead with an opening heave in the finals of 151' - a lead she held until the final round. On the penultimate throw of the competition, Miami of Ohio sophomore Victoria Paterra unseated Webb with a throw of 151' 9". Up to the challenge, Webb, on her final throw, uncorked a throw of 155' 7" to regain the top spot and capture the win.

In the Men's Discus, John Bowman opened the final with a leading first round throw and bettered it with a second round toss of 186' 7". Michigan State junior Lonnie Pugh jumped to the front and sealed the narrow victory when the Spartan unleashed a fourth round winner of 186' 11".

Pre-meet favorite David Diercks did not disappoint in the Men's Javelin. Dominating the field from the opening round, Diercks unloaded a second round heave of 214' 2" to best second place finisher Ohio State junior Kenneth Stephens by nearly 11 feet.

Michigan State junior Beth Rohl won the Women's Discus. Janine Tessarzik, a senior at nearby Ashland University, jumped out to an early lead with a first round throw of 158'. But Rohl, after two fouls on her opening throws, surged into the lead in the third round with a winning hurl of 168' 2".

As nightfall descended in the Midwest, attention turned to the track - and an evening that promised a series distance battles under the lights.

First up was the Women's 5000. Reflecting current meet trends, the 5000 field was packed - with 35 eager young women toeing the starting line. A Spartan Strategy emerged in the early going as Carlie Green, Katie Haines, Julia Otwell, and Rebekah Smeltzer - all Michigan State runners - rushed to take the early lead. The Spartan runners were quickly joined by Erin Richard, OSU junior Victoria Brink, and Nicole Camp. The Lady Spartans kept the pressure on with a relentless rhythmic cadence that made it easy to understand why the Michigan State women won the Big Ten cross country title last fall. By 2000 meters, both Camp and Brink had been dropped and only Richard - yet another young promising distance star groomed by the Hanson's - remained to challenge the women from East Lansing. With 1200 meters remaining, Richard, who had been running smoothly in a pack of green and white, launched a decisive move that none of the four Michigan Staters could cover. Her shift to 75 second 400s quickly gapped the Lady Spartans and allowed her to finish as the unchallenged winner in 16:27.52. Her easy victory suggests that faster times in more competitive races are in her future.

Another herd of distance runners competed in the Men's 5000. When large fields are combined with tactical race strategies, it is often a recipe for disaster. And while the increased jostling and heel clipping provoked more than few dirty looks and several verbal reprimands during the race's early stages, no falls or pile-ups occurred. As the field sorted itself out, three athletes emerged at the front and, at the 3 kilometer mark, began to separate themselves from the rest. With 3 laps remaining, the trio of Jeff Schirmer, MSU frosh David Madrigal, and Hanson product David Laney had a 30 meter lead on the field. Now running sub-4:30 pace, the trio began their surge to the finish. With 200 meters to go, Schirmer unloaded a devastating kick which not only assured him of the win but also allowed to him to dip under 14:00. His winning time of 13:59.59 also established a new meet record.

Showcasing its deep talent in the distance events, the Michigan State women sent out a different quartet of athletes to compete in the Women's 1500. They didn't disappoint. Two Spartan freshmen - Sara Kroll (4:25.65) and Leah O'Conner (4:27.35) - finished 1-2 with their teammates capturing places 5 and 6.

In perhaps the best race of the evening, the Men's 1500 featured focused competition and an honest pace. A hard kick by winner Ian Boyle (1st in 3:45.38) off the final curve propelled him past OSU junior Chris Fallon and allowed him to hold off fast-finishing Josh McAlary (2nd in 3:45.55) and Terefe Ejigu (3rd in 3:45.58) The top 6 finishers were separated by less than 1 second.

A compact field of six runners tackled the Women's 3000 Meter Steeplechase. Before long, a quartet of runners - Purdue's Stephanie Bonk; Michigan State's Tiffany Evans; West Virginia's Aubrey Moskal; and Becki Michael - controlled the race in a tight little pack. A strong move by Bonk with 2 laps remaining sealed her win in 10:30.11. Evans and Michael captured second and third.

The Men's 3000 Meter Steeplechase closed the evening. A powerful run in after the final barrier allowed Nick Petro (9:11.13) to move up to second and join his winning teammate Daryl Smith 9:07.37) in creating a 1-2 finish for Eastern Michigan.

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Dunaway AwardAt the 2019 annual meeting of the Track and Field Writers of America, Dave was presented with the James Dunaway Memorial Award “for track & field journalism excellence.”

Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.


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