TRACK: NCAA adds new Regional

Josh Buckman

Western’s track team will get a good look at its rivals when it travels to Nashville for the Commodore Invitational, hosted by Vanderbilt.

Sun Belt Conference rival Middle Tennessee State will be participating in the meet. The Blue Raiders are expected to be front runners for the conference championship in May.

“In the Sun Belt Conference, there are four teams which I look at to be very strong outdoors,” sprint and jumping coach Erik Jenkins said. “And it’s going to come down to basically who makes the least amount of mistakes.”

This year, the NCAA has added a regional meet that will determine who will attend the NCAA Championship. Previously, track members had to meet a set standard during the regular season to qualify for the championship. Now they will compete for a regional spot during the regular season.

The Hilltoppers have qualified in five categories for NCAA regionals.

Western must also try to avoid being bitten by the injury bug again.

Injuries have sidelined top sprinters junior Jonathon Brown and sophomore Brad Eickhoff, who was out of action for part of the outdoor season.

But last week, in Brown’s first meet since injuring his left hamstring at the Sun Belt Indoors, he qualified for NCAA regionals with a time of 21.10 seconds in the 200-meter dash. He also ran a strong 10.52 in the 100-meter dash.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything better coming off a hamstring injury,” Brown said. “In the 200-meter, I went 21.10 … I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Eickhoff strained his right quadricep two weeks ago during a relay at Louisville. He is expected to return to action in three weeks but hopes to return sooner.

The team hopes for his recovery because it strongly believes Eickhoff can qualify for regionals, if he’s healthy.