Three event titles lead MU to HCAC championship

DEFIANCE, OHIO – In what Manchester University Director of Cross Country and Track and Field called a “total team effort”, the Spartans made good on their preseason favorite status from the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference coaches early last month, winning the 2016 conference title with 113 points that eclipsed the rest of field by 12 Saturday, Feb. 20.

“We’re extremely excited and humbled for the opportunity to place high,” Cashdollar in noting the program’s first league title. “It’s taken a lot of hard work and commitment (to get to this point). There’s so much more than just what I do, too, as assistant and volunteer coaches have given tirelessly of their attention and time to athletes. It’s been a complete team effort, as everybody was part of it.”

MU’s run to the top of the awards podium inside Defiance College’s George H. Smart Center was fueled by the junior duo of distance runner Mariah Jordan (Fort Wayne, Ind.) and thrower Shay Aator (West Lafayette, Ind.). Jordan successfully defended her 3000 and 500 meter championships doing so in conference meet record fashion in the 5K (18:12.25) and setting a new Smart Center mark in the 3K (10:21.28), while Aator remained atop the HCAC in the 20-pound weight throw with a top toss of 16.77 that obliterated the former mark she held from 2015 (15.24).

“You need to have athletes that are at a national level to do special things team-wise,” Cashdollar said. “Mariah and Shay are in that range. The coolest thing about it, though, is that it didn’t start that way, as they’ve each had to develop over time. Their results give hope to others to get those same opportunities, as hard work can correlate.”

While the three individual victories were part of 10 top five marks, the Black and Gold were locked in a nip-and-tuck battle until the very end, as Rose-Hulman, Anderson University and Hanover College made strong bids throughout the day. The Fightin’ Engineers’ 101 points left them second, while the Ravens were close behind in third (98), and Hanover College was just off triple digits at 96.5 for fourth.

“There were very few events where we didn’t score as we should of, but this field was so strong,” Cashdollar said. “Rose, Anderson and Hanover were all right there competing very hard all day, too. I felt like after the 3K, when we had Mariah and fellow junior Tiffany Harber of Columbia City, Ind., end first and third, it made it so there was no pressure on our long jumpers. It was good momentum, and knowing we could breathe a little easier. However, it was still close right down to the end.”

Senior jumps specialist Allison Rowe (La Quinta, Calif. – high jump – 1.58 meters) and sophomore jumps specialist Paige Keller (Greenville, Ohio) (pole vault – 3.35 meters) narrowly missed adding their names to the individual champions’ list, each gaining runner-up efforts.

MU resumes its 2016 campaign Saturday, Feb. 27, making its second trip to Anderson University for the Fred Wilt Invitational.

NOTES: Freshman sprinter Dasia Beck (Indianapolis, Ind.) recorded school standards in the 60 meter (8.1 seconds) and 200 meter (27.27 seconds) in route to third and fourth-place finishes, respectively. She added another third-place finish and school record in the 4×200 meter relay, as Beck anchored for Keller, freshman Brianna Jondle (Elkhart, Ind.) and sophomore Olivia Jenks (Elkhart, Ind.) in crushing the old mark of 1:52.64, set in 2006, with a fleet 1:48.97 clocking … The team title marked the sixth successive season in which the Spartans have placed among the top five.

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