Courtesy of the OSU Athletic Apartment
Ohio State will host its only home meet of the outdoor season this weekend, with athletes from 66 different teams coming to Columbus to compete in the Jesse Owens Track Classic on Friday and Saturday.
This weekend’s meet at OSU’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium is the 27th time OSU has hosted the meet in honor of former Buckeye track star and four-time Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens.
OSU athletes will have no shortage of competition this weekend. The 66 teams competing include unattached runners and club teams, as well as Big Ten rivals Michigan State and Purdue, and other major programs including Cincinnati and West Virginia.
The OSU men’s track and field team is in a state of transition. Former coach Robert Gary is no longer with the university, as confirmed by multiple sources Tuesday. Ed Beathea, who has been the associate head coach under Gary since Aug. 14, 2006, is now the interim head coach of the Buckeyes.
Going into this weekend’s meet, Beathea said he is happy with the way the team has performed thus far this outdoor season.
“We have some great marks leading into the Jesse Owens and into the middle and latter part of our season,” Beathea said. “They are progressing really well and seem very focused on trying to win a Big Ten title.”
One of the key members of the team is senior sprinter Thomas Murdaugh. He was named Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week on April 4, in recognition of his time of 45.96 seconds in the 400-meter dash at the Jim Click Shootout.
Murdaugh said he believes he and his teammates are ready to perform well in the meet this weekend.
“Everybody’s looking great at practice, everybody’s looking real strong, everybody’s dropping real nice times at practice, and I know they’re really looking forward to running at this because it is the Jesse Owens Classic,” Murdaugh said.
The coaching situation is more stable on the women’s side, with Karen Dennis leading OSU in her sixth season as head coach.
Dennis said she believes this will be a special weekend for her team to run at home.
“I think it’s going to be an emotional weekend,” Dennis said. “This is the last opportunity for our seniors to run in the scarlet and gray and be at home.”
As for her team’s performance this outdoor season, Dennis acknowledges that the team must improve to contend during the championship season.
“It’s kind of a mixed bag for me for the outdoor season,” Dennis said. “I just don’t think we’re gelling as comfortably as we need to be in order to have a really solid outdoor campaign. That’s the bad news. The good news is that we still have time, and our women are still working hard. So even though things have not come together as efficiently and effectively as I hope, I still know that we’re still in the hunt. We’re still fighting, and as long as we haven’t given up, then we still have the opportunity to have a really great season.”
One athlete who Dennis specifically said is having a “stellar outdoor season” is senior sprinter Christina Manning. Like Murdaugh on the men’s side, Manning received Big Ten Athlete of the Week honors for the ninth time in her career on April 4. The honor recognized her two-win performance at the Jim Click Shootout, where she ran times of 12.68 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles and 11.43 seconds in the 100-meter dash. Manning’s time in the 100-meter hurdles ranks third worldwide among all women’s track athletes for the 2012 outdoor season.
As Manning prepares to run her final home meet as an OSU athlete, she acknowledged that it will be an emotional weekend.
“I really want to go out with a bang,” Manning said. “There’s just so many memories out there on that track … I’m just really excited.”
The Jesse Owens Track Classic begins Friday at 4:00 p.m., with running events slated to begin at 8 p.m. The meet will continue Saturday at 10:30 a.m., with running events starting at noon.