By Jeff Brown
The Youngstown State University women’s track and field team is preparing to defend last year’s Indoor Track and Field Horizon League Championship at the Watson and Tressel Training Site on Feb. 28-March 1. The women dominated last year’s championship, winning by 80 points over the University of Detroit.
However, this year may be a little more difficult for the YSU women’s team. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will come into this year’s championship as the slight favorites, but the Penguins are not far behind.
“On the women’s side the way it looks is Milwaukee’s women look on paper to be plus five to 10 points ahead of our women right now,” head coach Brian Gorby said. “We lost some extremely strong seniors in Samantha Hamilton and Ciara Jarrett and of course we’re hoping these freshmen can kind of step up in their spots.”
If it were not for some early season injuries, the Penguins might be favored heading into this weekend’s meet. The injuries are highlighted by the loss of the team’s best thrower Jaynee Corbett to an ACL tear early in the season.
“She’s been number one the whole entire year. From the very first meet without throwing anymore she’s been number one in the shot and number one in the weight throw,” Gorby said. “As I’m going to tell the kids, you can be either galvanized or give up. It’s kind of like the Ohio State quarterback situation where they lost one, then they lost two and the first day we lost one, we lost two. We lost almost thirty points the first day on the women’s side.”
Sprinter and jumper Nina Grambling will be looked at to help carry some of the load for the Penguins. Grambling won last year’s Horizon League Championship in the 100-meter sprint and in the long jump, and is looking to repeat this year. Grambling is also going after the school record in the 200-meter and the facilities record in the 60-meter sprint.
“She’s a phenomenal sprinter. She’s actually better the first 40 to 60 meters of a race and that’s why she’s actually getting better and better. Her weakness used to be the 200 and 100, so over the past two years she has gotten better and stronger,” Gorby said.
The men’s track and field team finished runner up in last year’s championship losing to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee by only 15 points, and are expected to be neck-in-neck with the Panthers again this year.
“It’s going to be a two-team battle,” Gorby said. “Milwaukee has won nine out of the last 10, but we beat them last year in outdoor. They know how to win championships and we know how to win championships.”
The men’s team features a talented distance team led by junior Austin McLean. McLean ran the second fastest mile in school history at the Alex Wilson Invitational hosted by Notre Dame last weekend.
“It was pretty tiring. I think I hit a wall from all the racing I’ve been doing, but I was really happy and I feel blessed to be able to get out there and go to Notre Dame and get the chance,” McLean said.
Perhaps the biggest advantage for both the men and women’s track teams is having the event on their home track where they practice every day.
“It’s beautiful [being at home]. You don’t have to travel,” McLean said. “You’re not sitting on a bus for six to 12 hours going somewhere getting off and feeling like crap after. It’s nice to be able to walk a half-mile from home and get an adequate amount of sleep.”