Winning a conference title in any college sport is no easy task. Winning two conference titles in one season is something no team in the Mid-American Conference has done since 2007, when Eastern Michigan University did it, winning both indoor and outdoor conference championships. EMU men’s track and field pulled off the feat again this season, anchored by the strength of seven first-team, All-MAC athletes.
John Goodridge, who was named MAC coach of the year, saw his team come back after being down 40 points to Akron in the outdoor championships the final day to rally and win its 21st title in 36 attempts.
“It truly has been a wonderful indoor and outdoor track season,” Goodridge said. “I’ve always felt that your conference meet is the nucleus of the athletic college experience.”
Heading into the final day and trailing a team like Akron, Goodridge knew a comeback wasn’t going to be easy.
“Going into the meet, we had to have been a distant third place team, with the fourth place team thinking they had a shot at us, but we stayed focused,” Goodridge said.
He also added that in his last talk with his team before the final day began he said, “I urged them to just give an honest effort, and if they all gave us an individual honest effort I thought some good things could happen and we could walk away with our heads held high.”
Goodridge stated how proud he is, saying they knew the history of this program, a team with three indoor and outdoor national championships, as members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and Division II.
“It’s their opportunity to add to the tradition and the history and I think this year’s team has certainly done that,” he said.
Goodridge has been the team’s interim coach since February 3 after replacing Brad Fairchild, who resigned.
He previously turned Wake Forest into an Atlantic Coast Conference force to be reckoned with, leading it to a second-place conference finish in 1995 and an eighth-place NCAA finish during his time there from 1984-1999.
The assistant-turned interim coach has been proud of his past seasons as well.
“I’ve had three individual national championships here, won five MAC titles and had 15 All-Americans, and it’s just been a great experience,” he said.
That’s to add to the 25 track and field members in his time that have gone on to compete in the Olympics, World Track and Field Championships or the Pan-American Games, which is quite an accomplishment.
“It’s been a great source of pride,” he said. “It’s really always been trying to challenge athletes to do something they don’t believe they can do, whether it’s been on the high school level, college level or international.”
The coach said one of the biggest surprises this season has been the emergence of freshman high-hurdler Vanier Joseph who won the 60-meter high hurdle in the indoor and outdoor events.
Another unforeseen star has been Terefe Ejigu, a freshman distance runner from New Zealand who had stopped running for a year but had a great showing at the outdoor championships.
The season is not over yet for EMU, as it will compete in the East region of the first round in the NCAA National Championships. which begins Saturday at North Carolina’s A&T campus in Greensboro, N.C., where EMU will send a number of athletes.
Gerald Gersham, Vanier Joseph, Ackeem Forde, Clint Allen, Koleon Prescott, Jairus Saunders, David Brent, Curtis Vollmar and Terefe Ejigu will represent the green and white in the upcoming event.
“We would be thrilled to have someone qualify for the [final round of the] NCAA Championships at the University of Oregon,” Goodridge said. “But we don’t want to be too greedy having already won both the indoor and outdoor conference titles.”