PAINESVILLE, Ohio - Anticipation. The Lake Erie College men's and women's track teams are brimming with it, heading into their first indoor meet of the season at the Kent State Golden Flash Gala, beginning Friday (Dec. 11) evening and continuing into Saturday (Dec. 12).
The Storm, led by head coach Bryan Harmon, is in its third year at Division II status and is looking to compete at a high level beginning this weekend.
"It's a chance for us to go out and prove that we belong and
we're just as good as anybody else," Harmon said. "We're not just
this start-up program any more. We have a respectable Division II,
Both the men's and women's units bring back solid performers from a year ago.
On the men's side, sophomore Joe Lockard (Columbus, Ohio/Circleville) will compete in sprints with junior Jason Vitek (Brookpark, Ohio/Midpark). Sophomore Mike Gritz (South Euclid, Ohio/Brush) is the leader amongst the throwers, while junior Kyle Griffith (Painesville, Ohio/Harvey/Capital) will lead a distance corps that is coming off a successful cross country season.
"Those are our leaders in their events," said Harmon. "When they work hard, everyone else works hard. Those are the captain-type guys on the team."
For the women, sophomore Allison Wright (Columbus, Ohio/Hilliard Davidson) returns as a distance runner, while sophomore Cierra Hicks (Richmond Heights, Ohio/Richmond Heights) comes back as a sprinter. Sophomore Kaitlyne Perrill (Ashville, Ohio/Teays Valley) comes back as a hurdler.
"The returners from last year are key," said Harmon. "Most of them last year were freshmen. It's tough to stand out as a freshman, but they were able to do it."
The Storm should get solid performances from a few freshmen athletes this season as well.
Andrea Boyd (Bedford, Ohio/Bedford) could be an NCAA provisional qualifier in the 60-meter hurdles.
The Storm is also looking for quality outings from freshman Chris Burrows (Trotwood, Ohio/Trotwood-Madison) in sprints and rookie Quinton Harley (Rochester, N.Y./Edison Tech) in hurdles.
Lake Erie also has Isaac Snyder (Salesville, Ohio/Buckeye Trail) running hurdles along with his twin brother, Ethan, who participating in the heptathlon this weekend.
"We have a lot of freshmen and they are going to be very impactful this year," said Harmon.
With more than 60 athletes between the two teams, Harmon needs the help of his assistant coaches, Renee Poprocki and Markham Hyde. Poprocki works with the jumpers and sprinters and Hyde works with the throwers, while Harmon mainly coaches the distance runners.
"I have my eyes and ears open to everything, but I have complete confidence in my coaches," said Harmon. "They don't want me looking over their shoulders every single minute of the day. They're doing great and it's going to show this weekend when our throwers, jumpers and hurdlers really perform well.
After this opening meet at Kent State, the Storm athletes will have more than a month off from competition before they return to the track on Jan. 16, again at Kent State.
Lake Erie will then compete at Baldwin-Wallace and Findlay to close out January before participating in the Division II Team Challenge at Findlay on Feb. 6.
That meet will feature Division II teams from around the country including last year's women's national champion, Lincoln (Mo.). The meet will also feature other teams within the GLIAC and the Great Lakes region, like Ashland and Tiffin, giving the Storm a taste of the conference competition before it makes the jump in to the GLIAC next season.
"It's going to be a really good meet, almost like a miniature national meet," Harmon said. "It's going to be fun."
Overall, though, Harmon is excited for this season to get going, saying he's been waiting months for weekend.
"I'll get really excited about one aspect and then a couple minutes later I think about something else that's going to be good. We have a lot of really good athletes. It's going to be fun to see just what we look like as a whole team."
And he'll have that chance when his teams step off from the starting block Friday evening.