By Layne Weitzel, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech's track & field squad closed out its appearance at the conference championship meet with what could only be explained as a storybook ending.
The program captured its first-ever Ohio Valley Conference outdoor team title on Saturday at the 2018 OVC Outdoor Track & Field Championship, hosted at Tucker Stadium in Cookeville. Tech collected 151 points with the help of seven event wins and eight additional podium finishes, ending the meet with a big 50-point lead over runner-up Murray State.
The Golden Eagles also won the indoor title back in February and is now one of seven OVC programs (Eastern Kentucky, Murray State, Middle Tennessee, Southeast Missouri, Tennessee State and Eastern Illinois) to sweep the indoor and outdoor championships in a single season.
"I am so proud of these young ladies," said head coach Wayne Angel. "They rose to the occasion and made history in the process. It was really special that they were able to compete at home in front of friends, family and our community. I am sure that everyone witnessed something that they might not likely see again for a while. Those ladies put on a clinic. They let the OVC know the meaning of Tech tough.
"Kudos to Coach (Eugene) Frazier and Coach (Whitney) Fountain – they did an outstanding job keeping the ladies calm and focused and, in the process, executed their game plans in a huge fashion. I also want to thank Mike Brown and Daniel Williamson for all of their hard work and assistance throughout the year.
"This team will go down as one of the greatest teams in Tennessee Tech and OVC history. Over four years ago when I was interviewing for this job, I told athletic director Mark Wilson that I would deliver him a championship. I believe this team has far exceeded that promise. Tennessee Tech is one of the best track and field programs in the south region of the United States.
"It was a super team effort this weekend. From top to bottom, the performances were stellar. We won five individual titles and two relay titles. We also scored in 12 of 19 events."
Angel received his first-ever OVC Outdoor Coach of the Year honor after repeating as the Indoor Coach of the Year in February.
Senior Micayla Rennick was awarded Athlete of the Championship after four podium appearances in all four of her events. She had a full schedule on Saturday, running the 1500m, 800m and 5000m within a span of just about three hours. Rennick took first in the 1500m and was the runner-up in both the 800m (by just .02 seconds) and 5000m, along with her win in the 10,000m to open her meet on Thursday.
Rennick was announced as the Female Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year on Thursday prior to the OVC meet's start and had won the same awards during the indoor season.
"I'm extremely proud of Micayla, winning athlete of the year and of the championship once again," said Angel. "Scoring 36 points was phenomenal. Her performances were historic."
Tech's 4x100m relay squad of Ceirra Tate, Na'Asha Robinson, D'Airrien Jackson and Lisa Wickham began the Golden Eagles' string of Saturday's titles. The quartet ran away with the event by .37 seconds over runner-up Murray State, reeling off an OVC championship meet and school-record time of 45 seconds flat.
Tech ended the day with another relay win, sending Robinson, Tate, Jackson and Khemani Roberts out for the 4x400m. They posted an OVC championship meet and school-record time of 3:37.74 and finished nearly eight seconds ahead of Southeast Missouri.
Robinson completed a three-peat in the 400m dash, winning the 2016, 2017 and now 2018 conference title in the event. She put up a time of 53.25, followed by teammate Jackson in second at 53.68.
Robinson also repeated in her title in the 200m dash, breaking the OVC championship meet and Tech school record with a time of 23.02. With her two individual and two relay wins in this meet, the junior brought her career indoor and outdoor OVC titles number to 15.
After adding the event to her repertoire just this season, Jackson collected the second OVC outdoor individual title of her career with a win in the 400m hurdles at 1:00.16.
"Na'Asha put on a clinic in the sprints, winning the 200 meter, 400 meters and 4x100 and 4x400 meter relays," said Angel. "She is truly one of a kind. D'Airrien was amazing in her debut in the 400 hurdles after having her hands full from prior events. She set a school record in the 400 meter hurdles. She has a bright future ahead of her."
Tech put up three more podium appearances on Saturday to add to its point total. Tate won her first career individual outdoor medal with a third-place finish in the 200m dash, finishing with a new PR of 24.00 to join Robinson on the podium. Wickham placed second in the 100m dash with a school-record time of 11.64.
Raven Smith put up a personal record jump of 12.39m/40'7¾" in the triple jump to finish third.
Khemani Roberts – 1.73m/5'8"; 1st place overall