After being slowed by mononucleosis in the indoor track and field season, University of Toledo junior Michelle Sutherland is having another stellar outdoor season in the high jump.
Sutherland, who won a Division I state championship in her senior year at Maumee, qualified for an NCAA regional for the second straight year at the Hillsdale Relays on April 27 by jumping 1.75 meters, or 5 feet, 8 3/4 inches. It's the first of many goals she hopes to achieve over the next month now that she's fully recovered from the illness.
"In indoors she was kind of struggling to be consistent and we even had a conversation after the Bowling Green meet [Feb. 8]," UT track and field coach Kevin Hadsell said. "I said, 'There must be something that you don't have any control over that's causing this.' Sure enough we found out that she had been sick.
"Once she got over that, in outdoor she's been a whole different person. She's been consistent."
Sutherland, who placed first in the event in the Toledo Invitational at the UT track on Friday, will compete in the NCAA regional in Fayetteville, Ark., on May 30-31. She's looking forward to another opportunity to compete there after not placing in the event last year.
"There was a lot of really great teams there," Sutherland said. "In high jump there were 25 girls and all of them were as good if not way better than me. So it was kind of overwhelming, but it was a good experience."
According to the UT athletic media relations department, Sutherland's jump at the Hillsdale Relays was the best in the Mid-American Conference this year. She's trying to improve her jump by three centimeters so she can bid to compete at the national meet. She has a few more meets to try for it, this weekend at the Michigan Invitational and next week's MAC championships.
"She's been focusing on not just clearing 1.75 meters to go to the NCAAs but being consistent in 1.70," Hadsell said. "Three meets in a row she's cleared 1.70 on her first attempt. Now we're really looking at challenging to be in the top two or challenging to win based on the misses at the MAC championships."
Other local athletes have had promising seasons for UT as well. Freshman Amanda Kaverman from Southview walked on to the team as a sprinter and has run the best 200-meter dash time on the team at 24.95 seconds.
"Amanda is one of the top two freshmen in the conference in the 200," Hadsell said. "She just walked on and has been working really hard all year. She has improved a lot since high school. That's probably our biggest surprise out of everybody."
Kaverman, who also runs the third leg of the 4x100 meter relay for the Rockets, credited her improved times to weight training and conditioning. She has the seventh-best time in the MAC. At the Toledo Invitational she finished in the top five in the 100 and 200-meter dashes.
"I decided to run over the summer and didn't know if I'd be good enough to run at the collegiate level," Kaverman said. "I thought I would be at the way bottom and now I'm toward the top, in the middle. It feels really nice."
Shari Harmon from Bedford High is the top freshman pole vaulter in the MAC. Hadsell felt she was one of the gems of a large recruiting class.
"Signing her last year was a really big deal for us," Hadsell said. "She was one of the best vaulters in Michigan and Ohio. She's somebody that I think is capable of qualifying for the NCAAs as well."
Harmon's personal best vault is 12 feet, which she hit once in high school and three times this season. She's hoping to jump 12 feet, eight inches before the end of the season to qualify for an NCAA regional.
"I'm close, I've just got some technical things we've got to work out," Harmon said.
Distance runner Audra Brown of Ayersville is another up-and-comer, with the sixth-best time in the MAC in the 10,000 meters. Juniors Erin McGowan of Perrysburg and Jennifer Spieldenner of Findlay are two of the team's other top distance runners.
"The majority of our team are freshmen," Hadsell said. "We had a huge signing class last year and our program as a whole is really young. A lot of the freshmen we have are ranked near the top in the conference."
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