BOGACZYK: Herd Invitational Brings Track Big Opportunity
The Word on the Herd-Jan. 28, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – There’s nothing Lilliputian about the Marshall athletic event in the Herd’s new indoor facility this weekend.
There’s a reason MU athletic officials quit calling that piece of the Chris Cline Athletic Complex the “indoor practice facility” about a year ago. More than practices go on there.
The 14-school track and field meet – with 21 men’s and women’s teams -- scheduled there Friday and Saturday underscores why it became the “indoor athletic facility.”
The first Thundering Herd Invitational is a chance for Marshall to put its best foot forward in the first of two multi-team meets in a three-week span. How the Herd performs -- not so much on the Jeff Small Track, but in staging the event – could bring bigger and better events to the 300-meter oval.
As it is, this one is big from Day 1. It will feature about 1,000 athletes from schools in nine conferences – Atlantic 10, Atlantic Sun, C-USA, Big 12, Big South, Horizon, Ohio Valley, Mid-American and Southern.
When Marshall held the Ohio Dual in early December against the neighboring Bobcats to christen the Jeff Small Track, it was the first track meet hosted by MU since April 2000. Coach Jeff Small’s Herd hadn’t had a track facility since 2005-06, when the outdoor Rollins Track was demolished.
So, this is pretty much all new, as first-year Marshall assistant coach Travis Coleman learned.
“The biggest thing after not having a meet of any kind in 14 years, or maybe a meet of this magnitude even longer, you have a lot of people involved who weren’t here when the last meet happened or never have been involved in a meet here at Marshall,” said Coleman, who coaches Herd throwers. “Normally, as a meet gets going, most things are in order, but since this is our first meet, you’re starting from scratch … no officials’ contacts, no timer, contacting volunteers, no equipment, so it’s been a lot of time sitting down with our facilities people, athletic administration, athletic training staff , putting everybody on the same page about the magnitude of what it is.
“They all have seen a track meet, but seeing a track meet and putting on a track meet is the equivalent of going to a football game and sitting and watching. It doesn’t look too complicated, officials are there, teams are there, someone is running the clock … but you don’t see what goes on behind the scenes, ticketing, entrances, parking, operations.
“Setting a baseline and a standard for us to start with was the hardest thing, and from there it gets pretty easy.”
The meet will include competition for 15 women’s teams and seven men’s teams.
Joining Marshall in the women’s meet are competitors from West Virginia, Dayton, Charlotte, Wright State, Radford, Western Carolina, Duquesne, Ohio, Winthrop, Morehead State, Northern Kentucky, Austin Peay, Campbell and Eastern Kentucky.
Men’s teams are participating from Northern Kentucky, Morehead State, Eastern Kentucky, Winthrop, Charlotte, Western Carolina and Campbell.
Coleman said team scoring will be updated after every event.
The Herd Invitational will open Friday night at 6 p.m. with the men’s and women’s pole vault, the men’s long jump, the men’s and women’s weight throw and then the men and women’s 5K. The events will run until about 9:30.
On Saturday, the remaining field events will be held, starting at 9 a.m., with track events starting at noon. The mile relay, at 5 p.m., ends the meet.
“Overall, we should have pretty solid competition,” Coleman said. “We’ve got teams from nine conferences and I’m most familiar with the throwers. On Friday night, we’ll have nine women in the finals of the weight throw, and I’d say seven of them will throw over 60 feet.
“With a meet full of mid-majors to have that, it’s pretty good. I think looking at the times, you’ll have the same thing in the 400 (meters), 200 and even the 60 … plenty of good times, fun to watch.”
Herd Invitational tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for ages 17 and under. The indoor facility spectator capacity is 880. Free parking will be available for the event on the west lot of Edwards Stadium. No concessions are sold in or permitted into the indoor facility.
Live scoring also will be posted online, via the link: midlandrunning.com/marshall.
Coleman said half of the football practice field inside the track oval will be used by teams. The other half of the yardage will be utilized as a warmup area.
The entry fee for schools is $300 for a women’s team; $600 for men’s and women’s competitors.
This is the bigger of the two meets the Herd has scheduled in its first indoor season in the new facility. The early numbers for the Feb. 13-14 Marshall Invitational include “12-13 women’s teams, and about half that many men’s teams,” said Coleman, who helped stage track meets in previous as a Winthrop graduate assistant. “But those numbers could very well grow after this first meet.
“Word gets out pretty quickly if the meet is run well, and times pretty good … it was a pretty good experience, words gets around through the track and field community. We might get some teams who call and want to bring a split squad up here.”
Coleman said the Herd’s indoor track hosting future could include some three- or four-team meets as well as the larger invitational fields. For those wishes to be realized Marshall needs a good weekend in the Cline Complex.
“The biggest challenge for us is there are three things we need to happen for the meets to continue to grow and for them to become what we want them to become,” Coleman said. “You never want to have a meet and it not be competitive or a good meet, so you have one shot at it, and three things need to happen.
“One, you need timing to run well so the meet stays on schedule and it moves along quickly. Second, make sure you have plenty of officials and the ones you have, you want to keep them coming back, so they like working your meet and they like coming back.
“The third thing is out of our hands – we need a couple of kids to run fast. When a couple of kids run fast, track coaches automatically think, ‘Oh my gosh, that track is really fast, we’ve got to go there.’”
That means the Herd’s effort will catch the eye of schools from the Big Ten, SEC and ACC.
“If we can make those three things happen, then we have a really good chance here, because of our location and proximity to a lot of big schools,” Coleman said. “They’re going to start inquiring about it and wanting to come here, and we can have really big invitationals if we want, with a bunch of the Ohio States, Kentuckys and Louisvilles coming here, instead of just getting one or two coming.
“We could have a really big meet with really good times, and this could become a big staple for us. We’d be known for holding really good meets that people would want to compete in. And that makes a difference.”