By Layne Weitzel, TTU Sports Information
CHARLESTON, Ill. – Just three seasons after failing to score a point in the 2015 conference meet, Tennessee Tech women's track & field completed a program turnaround with its first-ever team title at the 2018 Ohio Valley Conference Indoor Championships.
The Golden Eagles scored 137 points to clinch the win, finishing 31 points ahead of runner-up Eastern Kentucky. Following the meet opener on Friday, Tech had sat in third place with a total of 35 points behind EKU (51) and Tennessee State (40), but Saturday held a number of point-scoring opportunities that the Golden Eagles took full advantage of. Tech scored 102 points on Saturday to pull ahead to first place and eventually close out its team win.
"I am so proud of my staff and our ladies for what they have accomplished," said head coach Wayne Angel. "They did what no other track & field team in the history of Tennessee Tech has ever done. They are the first, and no one can ever take that distinction from them."
Tech was powered by eight event titles, seven of which were won on Saturday to close the meet. The Golden Eagles took first in the indoor pentathlon (Khemani Roberts), mile run (Micayla Rennick), 400m dash (Na'Asha Robinson), 60m dash (Lisa Wickham), 800m run (Rennick), 200m dash (Robinson), 3000m run (Rennick) and 4x400m relay (Robinson/Ceirra Tate/Roberts/D'Airrien Jackson).
Rennick, who entered the meet as the OVC Female Indoor Track Athlete of the Year, was named the Women's Athlete of the Championship after her trio of first-place finishes in the mile, 800 meters and 3000 meters. She also snapped the OVC championship mile record with a new time of 4:48.11.
Tech had never before won an OVC title in the 60m dash, 800m dash or mile run, and the team's last 3000m title came in 2009 courtesy of Stephanie Place.
The Golden Eagles did repeat in the 200m and 400m dashes and the pentathlon. On Friday, Khemani Roberts kept the pentathlon title in Cookeville after teammate Sharnique Leonce had won it back in 2017.
Robinson's pair of wins in the 200m and 400m dashes allowed her to keep those titles as well. She won the 200m dash in 2017 and the 400m dash in each of the last three seasons. Adding Tech's 4x400m relay title, seven of Robinson's 11 total OVC titles have come in indoor competition.
"They came together today and gave some extraordinary efforts as a team," said Angel. "Na'Asha and Micayla were spectacular today. They had a heavy workload and met the challenge. My hat goes off to my staff: Eugene Frazier, Whitney Fountain, Mike Brown and Daniel Williamson. They truly did a wonderful job. I am so proud of them. Everyone did their part, from top to bottom, to earn the title of OVC champion."
Wickham, the 60m dash champion, also set new conference event and school records with a time of 7.41. Tech's 4x400m relay squad broke Eastern Illinois' Lantz Fieldhouse facility record of 3:42.45 and the school record with a converted time of 3:42.96.
Tech gathered additional medals in the 400m dash, 200m dash and high jump. D'Airrien Jackson finished in second behind Robinson in the 400m dash, and Tate and Roberts each placed third in the 200m dash and high jump respectively.
Angel repeated as the OVC Women's Indoor Coach of the Year after collecting Tech's first-ever coach of the year recognition last season. The Golden Eagles finished in second place in 2017.
"Just think, it all began four years ago with zero points in 2014," said Angel. "The transformation that has taken place the last four years is nothing short of phenomenal. We took our lumps along the way, and we had our peaks and valleys, but through it, we learned to trust the process and each other. That made all the difference in the world, and now we are OVC champions. It doesn't get any better than that."