The 2015 Track and Field team hopes to have another strong year for Berea College. However, due to several key losses to graduation including All-American Jeffery Johnson (Marathon), CC Kinnamont (400m Hurdles), Daniel Carpintero (Hammer) and Demetris Coleman (Hurdles/Jumps), along with the harsh winter weather, the 2015 season is going to be a little harder to predict.
After dominating the KIAC conference in Track and Field for the last five seasons, the Track and Field program is adjusting to their new role in NCAA Division III. Luckily, the team has several standout athletes returning and with the help of some of their new members, the team hopes to continue their tradition of winning.
Among the returners are senior David Orr, two-time All American in the Javelin Throw, as well as national qualifiers Simone Brown (High Jump), Jeremy Johnson (Marathon). Also expected to contribute are fellow seniors Ami Callow (Sprinter), Tevin Webster (Sprinter/Jumper), Sydney Vaughn (Sprinter), Mercy Kershner (Distance), Michael James (Middle Distance), Kaitlynn Smith (Throws), Cody Clabo (Throws) and Erica Woods (Sprinter) as they will be called upon to help lead a smaller squad than in the past few years.
"We look to be dominant in several field events and the distance events this year on the men's side and field events and sprints on the women's side," Coach Bryant declared, "However, our male sprinters may just surprise everyone. Coach (Michael) Thomas has been working them hard and I see them improving every day. The same goes for our female distance runners; they are a small group but Coach (Mike) Johnson has them improving almost weekly."
On the women's side, Brown placed in every one of her meets as a freshman in the High Jump on her way to nationals last season. Her fellow jumper, senior Courtney Mollett, has been a standout in the Long and Triple Jump. She's healthy and looking to closeout out her career at Berea with another dominant season. Senior Long Jumper Woods returns to the team this year and is expected to provide some healthy competition for both Mollett and Brown. Sophomore Pole Vaulter, Amy Angevine, returns as well. After tying the school record last year, and thanks to the work of Jump Coach Nick Clark, Angevine is poised to shatter the record and continue her success as one of the best female collegiate pole vaulters in Kentucky.
Coach Michael Dalessio has throwers Smith, LeAnna Luney and Bre Sims returning. All three throwers routinely vie for top honors at each meet. Luney had a strong indoor season and is already throwing personal bests in the Shot Put. Along with new throwers, Kayla Santos and Asia Foster, the women's Field event crew is expected to contribute heavily to the Mountaineer point totals.
The women sprinters will be lead by seniors Vaughn, Woods and Callow. With the help of Megan Hale, Cassie McFadden and Grace Callow, the sprint crew is looking to break a few of the school records in the sprint relays. Along with Middle Distance Specialist, Layne Callow, the sprint crew has already established a new record for the Sprint Medley Relay during the indoor season.
Both Ami and Layne Callow, along with Gabrielle Sawyer are already a part of the Berea College 4X400m relay record team and this year it looks like they can break it once again. With the addition of freshman Grace Callow, along with Megan Hale, Coach Bryant sees the possibility for the record to fall multiple times this season.
"We are blessed to have five or more really good 400m runners on the women's team this year. After losing CC Kinnamont to graduation, this was rather unexpected. Depending on who is running their best, each meet can be a chance to drop the 4X400m Relay record. That race is the last one at every meet and having such a good relay team makes it exciting and just plain fun. We have established a tradition of being a very good 4X400m relay team and the whole team gets up to see them run," explained Coach Bryant.
The Distance crew will be led by senior Mercy Kershner. "It's been an amazing transformation to see how far Mercy has come since her Freshman season," said Coach Bryant, "Her hard work and determination as well as her commitment to her faith is an inspiration." Kershner, who specializes in the 5K and 10K races, will be joined by Middle Distance runners Sawyer, Gabriella Sabino, and Esther Omolola as well as Erin Gonterman and Julie Jent.
On the men's side, Orr (Javelin), Webster (High Jump and Triple Jump) and Ethan Harris (High Jump and Triple Jump) along with Austin Moore will lead the way in the field events with Cody Clabo, Riley Homan, Dylan Havens and newcomer's Aldrin Vinton and James Alexander expected to contribute as well.
"We have some new jumpers that look to be promising as well as a couple of strong returners. Unfortunately, due to the weather so far, we have been unable to find out exactly what we're capable of. Webster, Harris and Havens have been good point getters for us. Vinton and Alexander may be able to out-jump all of them but we won't know until we can get into the pit," Said Coach Bryant.
The men's sprinters had to deal with several major injury issues last year and with the loss to graduation of both Tyler Powell and Austin Johnson, the duties now fall to returners John Willis, Ali Djire, Wynn Jones Mbwambo and Boubacar Cherif. Vinton looks to be an immediate help as he ran the second fastest times this year during the indoor season.
Four-year starter and dominant hurdler/jumper Coleman graduated and the burden of those duties will be on the shoulders of Harris. He made a name for himself during his freshman season last year by placing highly in all but one of his meets. He was selected to run the 400m Hurdles at the prestigious Jesse Owens Classic at Ohio State Stadium, where he finished well ahead of a number of NCAA Division I runners. Harris is expected to pick up where he left off last season and with the help of Dylan Havens and Miles Kinnamont, the Berea College 400m Hurdlers will be represented.
The men's distance runners, coming off an outstanding Cross Country Season, may be the strongest aspect of the men's squad. Led by senior James (Middle Distance) and national qualifier Johnson (marathon), the distance crew have a quality group of runners returning to the track this season.
Head Cross Country Coach and Head Track Distance Coach, Dr. Michael Johnson has proven once again why he is in the Kentucky Collegiate Track Coach's Hall of Fame. Coach Johnson added Emanuell Kemei, to his exceptionally strong group of returners and the distance runners are poised to dominate their races this season. Casey Monti, Zachary Raab, Layne Sinkhorn, John Lowder, Barry Manley, Joseph Carrick, Richard Foley and Brock Arnold are expected to contribute to the distance point totals as well.
With the pre-season weather conditions, a concern for the team could be the team's shape. "All in all, this shapes up to be an interesting season. The harsh winter conditions have made workouts difficult and I'm not completely sure where we are right now in our overall conditioning," Coach Bryant said. Even with the worry of conditioning, Coach Bryant knows he has one trait in his team not all teams have. "One thing I do know is that we have some of the hardest working student-athletes anywhere. We strive hard to keep our grades up and we make academics a priority and we still have amazing performances each and every week we compete. I see very few of our competitors working on homework right up until time to get on the track and yet we still manage to find a way to come out on top. That's what makes this job so rewarding, our student-athletes truly are the best."
The Track and Field team look to continue their winning ways as they begin their 2015 season Saturday, March 21st at the Transylvania University Invitational in Lexington, KY.