OAC Championship Preview: Track and Field, Golf Teams Compete for Titles
Four Capital University teams will compete for Ohio Athletic Conference championships this week in the midst of finals week on the Capital campus.
The track and field teams visit Baldwin Wallace this Friday starting at 12 p.m. and Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. The women's team looks to improve on its seventh-place finish at the OAC Indoor Championships in February, while the men seek to move up in the standings following a 10th-place finish two months ago.
After a runner-up finish during the regular season, the men's golf team looks to secure its first conference championship and NCAA Tournament berth since 1983 this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at River Greens Golf Course in West Lafayette, Ohio.
The women's golf team is set to play Saturday and Sunday at Columbia Hills Country Club in Columbia Station, Ohio, with the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line. The Crusaders recorded the program's best-ever finish a season ago and three players are coming off tying or setting career-best scores last week.
See below for a team-by-team preview of the weekend's events.
Capital is riding high after a runner-up finish at the OAC Spring Invitational last week vaulted the team into second place in the conference regular season standings. The Crusaders finished just four strokes behind cross-town rival and defending OAC Tournament champion for the tournament.
Senior Clay Rice (Hilliard, Ohio), the team's leading scorer who averages 77.5 strokes per 18-hole round, said Capital is confident it can make up those strokes and contend for an OAC title and NCAA berth this weekend.
"When Mark (Williams) and I were freshmen, we made it our goal to win a championship and get to the NCAA Tournament," Rice said. "We want to put Capital in the national spotlight. The way we're playing I think we have realistic goals.
"I thought we could play even better than we did at the spring invite, maybe even 5-10 strokes better."
The tournament's demanding format calls for 27 holes on Friday, 27 on Saturday and 18 on Sunday. River Greens Golf Course is made of up of three nine-hole courses.
"I like the course, and I think it's scoreable," Rice said. "The tee shots are a little demanding, so we'll need to hit it well from there, but the par 5s are all reachable."
Rice and Williams (Carroll, Ohio) are the team's top two scorers and earned All-OAC honors in 2012 by virtue of top 10 finishes in the conference tournament. Sophomore Daniel Shafer (Hilliard, Ohio), who is third on the team with a 78.4 scoring average, was all-conference a season ago after placing tied for ninth.
Freshmen Jeff Czerniakowski (Sylvania, Ohio) and Phillip Martin (Akron, Ohio) were in the lineup at the OAC Spring Invitational. Czerniakowski cards an average of 79.8 per round, while Martin shoots just over 80 on average in 10 rounds played this season.
The women's golf team also appears to be heading in the right direction as three players either tied or set personal best scores in the team's dual match victory over Muskingum last week.
Freshman Emily Kunz (Alliance, Ohio) tied her career low, while sophomores Kayla Fowler (Ashville, Ohio) and Kristen Sollmann (Beavercreek, Ohio) each shot the best 18-hole score of their career.
Senior Jessica DeBelly (Sylvania, Ohio), who shot a 39 on the back nine en route to a meet-low score of 87, said the team is playing its best golf and could improve upon last year's program record OAC Championship finish of fourth place.
"We're excited," DeBelly said. "Everyone's game is solid. We could make history again, especially with a couple of the conference's better programs fluctuating a little bit."
Junior Aly McGinnis (Westerville, Ohio), who did not compete during the fall season, is the team's leading scorer, averaging 86.3 strokes per 18-hole round. She was a second team All-OAC selection in 2013.
DeBelly, who will compete in her fourth championship meet, is second with an average of 93. Kunz (97.2), Fowler (101.6) and Sollmann (106.4) round out the lineup.
DeBelly said the team's mindset, as well as its chemistry, will be important heading into play this weekend.
"Golf is individual, but we can read each other's body language," DeBelly said. "We can cheer each other up with inside jokes on the course, which is important because one bad hole can get you flustered. We just need to have fun and see if we can go out with a bang."
Men's Track and Field
The Crusaders placed 10th at the OAC Indoor Championships on Feb. 28-March 1 and look to move up in the standings this weekend.
Senior thrower Paul Baker (Ashland, Ohio) scored in two events at the indoor championships and earned All-OAC accolades in the shot put. Entering competition this weekend, Baker has the fourth-best mark in the shot put and could also contend for points in the hammer throw.
Sophomore Brennen Hennings (Springfield, Ohio), who scored points in the 200-meter dash indoors, has the fifth-fastest time in the 200 entering the weekend. He also finished just short of scoring in the 400-meter dash and will contend in the event this weekend.
Senior Cory Smith (Bucyrus, Ohio) has the No. 8 javelin throw and could also be a factor in the 110-meter hurdles and the pole vault.
Women's Track and Field
Capital placed seventh at the OAC Indoor Championships and will look to senior Caitlin Prange (Columbus, Ohio) to lead a push to the top half of the standings.
Prange, a nine-time All-OAC honoree, scored in three events at the indoor championships and was the league champion in the 200-meter dash. She also helped lead a pair of relay teams to top-five finishes. Entering competition this weekend, Prange owns the second-best time in the 100-meter dash, the No. 3 mark in the 200 and the eighth-lowest time in the 400-meter dash.
Freshman Caitlyn Tulloss (Utica, Ohio) earned all-conference honors in the 500-meter run at the indoor meet and has the seventh-best time in the 400.
Pole vaulters Jordan Lyle (Sunbury, Ohio) and Katherine Smith (Woodville, Ohio) are tied with the No. 6 marks in their event. Lyle, a freshman, placed second to earn All-OAC recognition at indoors, while Smith, a senior, finished eighth at the event.
Freshman Natalie Bayer (Upper Arlington, Ohio) owns the fourth-best time in the 400-meter hurdles. She could also contend in the 100-meter hurdles.
Freshman Ashley Freshkorn (Columbus, Ohio), a fifth-place finisher in the weight throw and shot put in March, enters the weekend with top-eight marks in the shot put (sixth) and hammer throw (eighth).
Junior Jennifer Long (Hilliard, Ohio) has the league's seventh-best hammer throw, while junior Marissa Price (Tiffin, Ohio) enters with the No. 8 javelin throw.