Nine YSU athletes headed to NCAA preliminaries


Nine YSU athletes headed to NCAA preliminaries

By Brian Dzenis

bdzenis@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Youngstown State will have a bigger contingent than usual in the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field National Championship preliminaries.

The Penguins are sending nine athletes to Jacksonville, Fla., to compete on Thursday through Saturday. That includes a school-record eight mens athletes and junior sprinter Jaliyah Elliott is the lone woman.

Senior Chad Zallow (110 hurdles), junior Collin Harden (400 hurdles) and Elliott (100, 200) are the only athletes with prelim experience. Ryan Sullivan (10,000) and Dominic Westbay (shot put) qualified in their senior seasons. Jake Wilson (javelin) is in a junior and Wyatt Lefker (pole vault), Zach Gehm (discus) and Noah Drudy (javelin) are all freshmen.

“This is a good benchmark for the program to have. Having eight [men] is just an extraordinary accomplishment,” YSU head coach Brian Gorby said. “It kind of ties the past and the future together.”

Zallow is the second YSU athlete to make the NCAA prelims four times after former high jumper Arnaldo Morales completed the feat last year.

“It hasn’t changed too much. The only thing that’s different is there are less nerves because it’s my fourth year,” Zallow said. “I just want to take it round by round. The first thing is to make it to the final day and then make it to nationals again.”

The Warren JFK graduate stands a good chance of making it back to nationals as the team’s top qualifier ranking No. 8 in the nation with a season-best time of 13.70 seconds. He has been a second-team All-American in the event for the past two seasons. Since the Horizon League Championships on May 5, Zallow has been resting.

“This has been different for me,” Zallow said. “Usually I’m running every week, but I got the weekend off and it just felt really good to get some rest and relaxation before a big meet like this.”

Elliott is back in the prelims for the first time since her freshman season after missing out in 2018. Bad weather and some less-than-stellar performances kept her out of Jacksonville. To rebound, she talks herself through every race.

“I always talk to myself every race to make sure I always run well. I have to talk to myself right when I get into the blocks, otherwise I won’t perform well,” Elliott said. “It’s always, ‘Get out fast, drive, move your arms.’ My form isn’t good so I have to tell myself to move my arms and finish well.”

Harden, a Girard graduate, really wanted to make his personal-best time of 51.01 seconds sub-50 during the Horizon League Championships, but for his third go-around in the prelims, it’s more about advancing.

“My goal is to just be in that top 24 and then be in the top 12 for the finals,” Harden said. “Going into the previous trips, I was nervous and I would let the nerves get the best of me, but since I’m more experienced now. I have a better mindset and my teammates have really pushed me to meet my goals.”

Drudy and Wilson advanced after taking the top two spots in the Horizon League Championships, with Wilson getting first with a throw of 66.98 meters. Wilson said the pair have had a back-and-forth season, so he does not hold the title against his training partner.

“I know eventually bigger and better things are coming [for Drudy] because he has more time,” Wilson said. “I think [making prelims is] good for him and it’s good for me.”

Gehm qualifies as the school’s record holder at 54.17 and Westbay’s personal best is 17.75. Lefker is also a school record-holder at 5.01, which he set on May 10. Sullivan’s top mark is 29:38.15 heading to Jacksonville.

Harden will be the first athlete in the blocks on Thursday at 5 p.m.

“I’m really excited and a little anxious.” he said.

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