Young Stars Shine Brightly At ODAC Championships

Freshman Michaela Chowning went head-to-head with an ODAC Champion in the high jump and won. (photo by Scott Eyre)
Freshman Michaela Chowning went head-to-head with an ODAC Champion in the high jump and won. (photo by Scott Eyre)

Despite thunderstorms limiting Friday's schedule at the ODAC Championships, the EMU men and women got some big performances at the two-day meet. A number of the veterans broke their PRs, but the freshmen highlighted the conference meet, earning many of the team's top awards.

Michaela Chowning (Urbanna, Va./Middlesex) showed her promise but also realized it in winning the high jump on Friday, in one of the few events that was able to be completed. Chowning needed three attempts to clear 1.63m for the first time this year, but then breezed past 1.66m and 1.69m to win the gold and All-ODAC First Team honors. The effort also tied the ODAC Championships record. She topped Roanoke senior Mara Briggs, who won the event each of the last two years. It was also the first ODAC title for an EMU woman since Hannah Chappell-Dick won the 800m and mile in 2016.

Chowning returned on Saturday for the 400m dash, and finished fourth in a packed final heat. Her time of 59.56 seconds shaved nearly a second off her PR and left her within reaching distance of another All-ODAC honor.

"Michaela showed everyone the competitor she is, and I have come to know this season," said Associate Coach Erick Camodeca. "In a high pressure situation, going back and forth in the high jump, she handled the situation like a veteran and came out on top. She followed up Friday night's performance with a gritty effort and PR in the 400."

Classmate Cor'shauna Cunningham (Strasburg, Va./Warren County) had a silver medal finish in the discus for All-ODAC Second Team. Cunningham improved her PR on her first attempt at the meet, landing at 37.61m to finish second. Her record coming into the meet had been 37.06m.

In the shot put, sophomore Cheyenne Suamataia-Teo (Stafford, Va./Mountain View) landed her best distance on her first attempt, coming in at 11.02m. She took fifth with the effort. Cunningham also landed at 11.02m, but took sixth place as Suamataia-Teo's second-best attempt was better than hers.

Due to Friday's weather, the 100m preliminaries on day one were cancelled and Saturday's races were the only of the meet. Senior Tajah Miller (Waynesboro, Va./Waynesboro) ran in the final heat, and ended up fifth overall with a time of 12.99.

In her second-ever 3000m steeplechase run, Megan Good (Harrisonburg, Va./Eastern Mennonite) took a good five seconds off her PR and grabbed two points with a seventh-place finish in 12:25.98.

Danielle Spears (Herndon, Va./South Lakes) made her move on her sixth and final attempt in the triple jump, just missing her PR and taking seventh at 10.30m.

Laurie Serrell (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg) grabbed the final point in the 1500m, taking eighth place in 4:57.72. The time was a PR for the senior by more than five seconds.

"Laurie had an impressive race in the 1500m," said Head Coach Bob Hepler. "She set a PR at every meet this year. She is a senior leader who set a high bar for her team and leads by example."

In the 4x400m relay, Chowning, Serrell, Spears and Abigail Shelly (Collinsville, Miss./West Lauderdale) got together for eighth place in 4:31.62.

Shelly just missed scoring points in the 800m. She was second in her heat, but came in ninth overall in 2:33.41, taking nearly 2.5 seconds off her PR.

The women's team picked up 40 points, just edging Virginia Wesleyan at 38 for sixth place out of nine teams. That tied EMU's highest finish as a team since 2015.

On the men's side, Grant Amoateng (Bristow, Va./Patriot) was the team's highest finisher. The senior settled for third in the triple jump after winning the event last year. Amoateng's best combination hit the sand at 13.85m. He still sits No. 10 in the nation with his season-best jump of 14.43m.

Then in the long jump, Jamel Howard (Leesburg, Va./Tuscarora) took fifth place by landing at 6.64m. Amoateng wasn't far behind in seventh at 6.58m.

The high jump was incredibly tight, with five men, including two Royals, finishing with a height of 1.86m. Based on jumps, freshman Wade Banks (Basye, Va./Stonewall Jackson) tied for fourth, while Howard earned sixth.

Sophomore Justice Allen (Waynesboro, Va./Waynesboro) grabbed fifth place in the 3000m steeplechase. He was less than second out of fourth place and crossed in a time of 10:06.66. Derrick Chirinos (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg) was tenth in 10:47.43.

Banks broke a pair of PRs in the hurdles. In the 400m hurdles, he took fifth overall when he shaved 1.5 seconds of his best with a time of 58.28. Banks also nudged his PR in the 100m hurdles, taking ninth in 16.12.

"Wade really stepped up today in all of his events," said Camodeca. "He ran an impressive 400m hurdles, and just made some great improvements in all of his events. I feel like this will carry into next year as he steps into a leadership role."

The 4x100m relay team of Amoateng, Alijah Johnson (Upper Marlboro, Md./Frederick Douglass), Coy Jimenez (Edinburg, Va./Central) and Howard finished sixth in 43.64.

In the 4x400m relay, EMU was eighth when Jimenez, Johnson, Banks and Ivan Harris (Spotsylvania, Va./Spotsylvania) combined for a time of 3:37.97.

Johnson then narrowly missed pointing in the 400m, taking ninth by 0.05 seconds at 50.82.

Allen was also just outside of the points in the 1500m, taking tenth in a two-second PR of 4:15.74. He was tenth in the 5000m as well at 15:58.82, a 17-second PR.

"On the distance side, Justice ran the 3000 steeplechase, a PR in the 1500m, and had a huge PR while breaking the 16-minute barrier in his third grueling event of the day in the 5000m," Hepler commented. "He's established himself as the leader of the distance men."

The men earned 31.5 points as a team, taking eighth place, just behind Emory & Henry at 35.

Eastern Mennonite sends a handful of athletes to the Paul Kaiser Classic in Shippensburg, Pa., next Saturday before the "last chance season" begins in earnest in May. The NCAA Championships are May 23-25 in Geneva, Ohio, with Amoateng eyeing his fourth national berth.