BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo men's and women's track and field teams head into this weekend's Mid-American Conference Championships confident that the hard work they have put into the 2014 regular season will translate in several league titles.
This year's outdoor championships are slated for May 15-17 at the University of Ohio's Goldsberry Track & Field Complex. Events begin at 10:00 am on Thursday and Friday mornings with Saturday's competitions starting at 12:00 pm.
The combined men's and women's teams enter the league championships with the top-seeded athlete or relay team in six of the meet's 42 events. UB also has the second-seeded individual in six events and the third seed in four others, giving the Bulls several excellent chances to claim conference crowns.
The Bulls have traditionally scored high in the field events, especially with their well-stocked stable of throwers. Jonathan Jones has dominated in the circle all season long, winning the shot put in five outdoor events. Jones won the MAC indoor shot put title in February and is the league's top seed outdoors. He ranks first among the league's shot putters after he broke the school and facility record with a throw that traveled 65'02.25" (19.87m) at the UB Open. His throw also ranks seventh nationally and is four and a half feet better than the second-best throw in the MAC.
Evan Palmer aims for another MAC crown in the hammer throw following his weight throw title during the indoor season. Palmer currently holds the school record and ranks second in the MAC in the hammer throw after a throw that traveled 211'08.00" (64.53m). Palmer also ranks fourth in the conference in the discus following a fourth place finish in the event at last year's outdoor championships. On the women's side, senior Rachel Roberts looks for her first MAC title in the shot put as she enters as the fourth ranked competitor while Megan Patterson ranks sixth in the conference.
Jacob Sunday holds the league's top seed in the men's javelin once again for the Bulls. Sunday set the top throw of 221'10" (67.62m) at the Bison Outdoor Classic and currently leads the second place MAC qualifier by 10 feet. Sunday finished in second place at last year's outdoor championship. Sophomore Ryan Billian has his sights set on his second career MAC title this weekend as he enters the long jump as the favorite. Billian ranks first in the MAC following a jump of 24'09.00" (7.54m) at the prestigious Penn Relays.
Women's middle-distance specialist Asia Henry is the top seed in the 800-meters. Henry set the league's top time of 2:08.36 at the Princeton Elite Meet, two-hundredths of a second ahead of second-seeded Meghan Heuer of Northern Illinois. Also on the women's side, hurdler Donna Jeanty enters the championship as the first seed in the 400 meter hurdles. Jeanty broke the school record with a time of 58.13 seconds at the Florida Relays, leading second placed Skyler Willis of Akron by nine-tenths of a second.
A pair of school record holding relay teams could also bring home league titles this weekend for the Bulls. The women's 4x400-meter quartet of Crystal Graham, Camaria Long, Jeanty and Henry hold the league's top seed following their school record 3:39.35 clocking at the Florida Relays, over a second ahead of second-seeded Western Michigan. The men's 4x100-meter team is seeded third at 40.29, a school record. The UB team of Darien Johnson, Miles Lewis, Jalen Law and Billian set its mark at the Florida Relays early on in the outdoor season.
On the track, men's sprinters Lewis and Billian qualified third and sixth respectively for the championship's marquee event, the 100-meter dash. Lewis holds the Bulls fastest time in the event this year as he finished in 10.42 seconds at the Florida Relays, just two-tenths of a second behind defending MAC champion, Wayne Gordon from Kent State. Billian's time of 10.62 seconds was recorded at the Bison Outdoor Classic and he will aim for his first-ever MAC crown in the event. Billian, the defending 110-meter hurdles MAC champion, earned the second seed in the 110-meter hurdles event with a time of 14.07 seconds that he recorded at the Florida Relays.
Buffalo track and field head coach Vicki Mitchell is optimistic about her team's chances. "We are very excited for the outdoor MAC championships. The team has been preparing for this meet with focus and intensity from day one. The senior leadership on this team will guide us and we have very high expectations."
The UB women recorded their best finish in program history at the 2013 championships held in Akron, OH as they took home third place out of 12 league member schools. The UB men came in fifth place out of six teams.