By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – With the Ohio Valley Conference Outdoor Championships just two weeks away, Tennessee Tech track and field will undergo its final preparative step this weekend when it travels to Louisville for the Lenny Lyles/Clark Wood Invitational.
The Friday-Saturday meet will be held at UL's Track and Soccer Stadium inside Cardinal Park, with the first TTU athletes competing at 3 p.m. CT Friday afternoon and 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning.
A live results link will be posted to the track and field schedule page when it is made available.
Na'Scottisha Drummond will break the ice for Tech when she competes in the long jump at 3 p.m. on Day 1. The Duncan, S.C. native will make her second outdoor attempt of the season in Louisville, and will look to improve on her 5.37-meter leap (17 feet, 7 1/2 inches) from the season-opening Vanderbilt Black and Gold Invitational on March 22.
Eshe Robinson will be the team's lone representative in the 100-meter hurdles prelims at 3:30 p.m. She will be looking to improve on her season best, and record something close to her all-time PR, 14.88 seconds.
Also beginning at 3:30 will be Abby Mink and Keyanna Word in the shot put. Neither Mink (freshman) nor Word (sophomore) have thrown the shot outdoors yet this season, as Mink has been more focused on the discus, while Word has thrown the javelin at two different meets.
Heptathlon headliner and reigning OVC Female Field Athlete of the Week Khemani Roberts, Ceirra Tate, Jordan Toney and Jessica Walsh will make up the Tech contingent in the 100-meter prelims at 4:30 p.m.
Tate has been the fastest on the team so far in the 100, having posted a 12.26-second split at the Virginia Challenge that ranks 12th on the OVC list. Freshmen Toney and Walsh each have only one collegiate attempt in the 100, while this will be the career debut in the event for Roberts.
Janet Kwambai will take on the 5,000 meters at 5:10, which will put a nightcap on Friday's action for Tech. It will be the first outdoor 5K on the track for Kwambai, who starred during the cross country season as the winner of the OVC's Female Freshman Runner of the Year. Kwambai ran the 5,000 one time during this past indoor season and produced a time of 18-minutes, 37.12-seconds.
Mink and Word will be back to kick off Saturday's events for TTU, as they throw the javelin together at 9:30 a.m. Word's 24.53-meter heave (80-6) from the Western Kentucky Hilltopper Relays is the best mark between the two.
Next will be freshman Sharon Chepkemboi in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at 11 a.m. Converted into a steeplechaser by the coaching staff, the Kapsabet, Kenya native will be in search of her first recorded mark in the event at the collegiate level.
Drummond and Robinson will try their hands at the high jump at 11 a.m. as well.
Drummond put up her most promising mark of the outdoor season at the Hilltopper Relays on April 6, where she cleared the bar at 1.70 meters (5-7) for just the second time in her career to take third place. That mark is currently tied for third-best on the OVC Outdoor Performance List.
Robinson has yet to record a mark in the high jump so far this outdoor season, but set her all-time personal best at an outdoor meet when she cleared 1.60 meters at the Mississippi State Bulldog Relays last year.
Mink and Word will team up one last time in the discus, a third event scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Both underclassmen will be searching for their first-ever marks as Golden Eagles.
The 4x100-meter relay team, which will be selected from a troop that includes Drummond, Roberts, Raven Smith, Tate and Toney, will run at 11:40 a.m.
Tech's season best came at the Black and Gold Invitational, where Teauna Anderson, Tate, Roberts and Toney recorded a time of 47.83 seconds that ranks fourth on the OVC outdoor list. It stood up as the best in the league until several teams clocked faster marks on the weekend of April 5-6.
Purity Sanga, who was named the OVC's Female Track Athlete of the Week on Wednesday, will join Vivien Chesire in the 1,500 meters at noon. Sanga already owns the league's top time, a personal-best 4:26.32 that heads the conference list by a little more than one-and-a-half seconds. The mark is also good enough to make the top 100 on the NCAA Division I East Qualifying List.
Chesire, another Kenyan freshman, has one previous attempt in the 1,500, completing it in 5:16.14 back at the Black and Gold Invitational in March.
Smith, the OVC indoor champion in the triple jump, will compete alongside Robinson in the triple jump, which also gets underway at noon.
Smith currently leads the OVC list for the outdoor season, having broken her own outdoor school record with a 12.46-meter jump in Virginia. That mark, which leads the conference by a little less than two inches, is also ranked 42nd on the NCAA Division I East Qualifying List, and tied for 82nd on the NCAA Division I Combined Qualifying List.
It will be the first career attempt in the triple jump for Robinson.
Should any of the Golden Eagles move on from the 100-meter hurdles or 100-meter dash preliminary rounds on Friday, they will compete in the finals sections, which will be held at 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, respectively.
Sandwiched between those two finals will be Toney's attempt in the 400 meters at 12:50. The freshman from Evansville, Ind. has yet to run the 400 outside, but took an indoor personal best, 1:02.20, at the Samford Bulldog Open during the indoor season.
After that, Alexa Brugere and Courtney McCowan will toe the line for Tech in the 800 meters. Brugere has the team's two best times on the season – a 2:19.86 from the Black and Gold Invitational that slots in at No. 14 on the OVC list, and a 2:21.53 from the Hilltopper Relays.
McCowan took her season best at the Hilltopper, a 2:33.60.
Tech's final individual event will be the 200 meters, in which Robinson, Tate and Walsh will all be participants.
Robinson has not run the 200 outdoors yet this year, but took an all-time personal best 27.79 seconds in her most recent attempt at the 2018 OVC Outdoor Championships.
Tate has three of the team's top four marks this year, headed by a season-best 24.75 from the Virginia Challenge. She will look to whittle off more time with this weekend's attempt, with the hopes of getting close to her personal-best 24.00.
Walsh will line up for the 200 meters for the first time in her collegiate career.
As it is at most meets, the 4x400-meter relay will act as the finale. Brugere, Roberts, Tate, Toney and Sanga are all eligible candidates for the squad, which will compete for just the second time this season. The team's previous mark this year was a 4:05.24, which was set at the Black and Gold Invitational.
Twenty-nine other programs will compete alongside the Golden Eagles at the Lenny Lyles/Clark Wood. Of those 29, four – Michigan State, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech and the host Louisville – come from Power 5 conferences.
According to the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches' Association, Michigan State and Louisville both hold the highest regional ranking of the teams in the field. MSU comes in at No. 3 in the Great Lakes Region, while Louisville is third in the Southeast. Virginia Tech is just behind Louisville, ranking fifth in the Southeast Region.
Other teams holding top-15 rankings within their regions are: Cincinnati (4th, Great Lakes), Central Michigan (8th, Great Lakes), Illinois State (13th, Midwest), Bowling Green (14th, Great Lakes), and Southern Illinois (14th, Midwest).
For its part, Tech is currently ranked 21st in the South Region.
A solid group of OVC comrades will accompany Tech in Louisville as well. That five-member group includes Belmont, Eastern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State and Southeast Missouri.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information