YSU women have shot to
By Joe Scalzo
If Youngstown State wants to win this weekend’s Horizon League outdoor track title, it would do well to borrow the attitude of senior Alteeka Vanwright.
“That’s my track,” she said. “Let’s own it.”
After winning conference titles in cross country and indoor track, the Penguin women are heavy favorites to complete running’s triple crown when they host the conference meet for the first time since 2008.
“That’s kind of the apex of what any track program wants,” said YSU coach Brian Gorby, who led the Penguin men to a triple crown in the Mid-Continent Conference in 1996-97. “It’s like the grand slam in golf.
“And to top it off, no one in NCAA history has ever hosted all three and won all three in the same year. We have a chance to do that.”
Since joining the league in 2001-02, the Penguin women have won six outdoor titles and finished second four other times, including last season. Gorby’s team ranks first in the Horizon League this season in all four disciplines — distance, sprints, throws and jumps — and he believes the Penguins could win by as many as 80 points.
“I’m just hoping we come out this weekend and trust our training and trust our coaches and put it all on the track,” said Vanwright, a Youngstown East High graduate who excels at the 200- and 400-meter dashes. “We’ve got to stay focused. We have to want it as bad as our opponent does.”
Although sprinting standout Ciara Jarrett is taking a medical redshirt this spring, the Penguins return last year’s 100-meter champion, Nina Grambling, who was last year’s running newcomer of the meet. She ranks first in the conference in the 100, 200 and long jump.
Senior Samantha Hamilton, who redshirted last spring, leads a deep group of distance runners. Hamilton, a Jackson-Milton High graduate, has the league’s top times in the 1500, 5K and 10K and has already broken YSU records this year in the indoor mile and the outdoor 1500.
Sophomore Jennifer Neider holds the league’s top shot put throw and freshman Jaynee Corbett is second in the shot and the discus, while newcomers Chenera Lacey (high jump), MacKenzie Sturtz (high jump) and Nicole Waibel (pole vault) lead the jumpers.
One other runner to watch is Jen Shiley, who is finishing her first complete season as Penguin. The Fitch High graduate redshirted as a freshman two years ago following a devastating right knee injury at the Ohio state meet in 2011. In addition to repairing the ACL, MCL and meniscus, she’s had two additional procedures to clean out scar tissue.
After missing the 2013 indoor season, she was able to compete last spring and is finally beating her high school times.
“If we can all do what’s expected of us, we have a high chance of winning,” said Shiley, a standout in the 400 and 400 hurdles. “You have to run every race like it’s your last race. Just go all out — finals, semifinals, it doesn’t matter.”
Since she got the first words in this story, Vanwright will also get the last. When asked who fans should watch for this weekend, she rattled off a few names, then said, “Honestly, the whole team. Just watch the YSU men and women’s track field team and see them just do amazing things.”