Archive | Men’s Athletics

Cross country teams open season on new home course

The Indiana Wesleyan University men’s and women’s cross country teams will begin their season Friday, Sept. 12 on their newly-renovated home course.

The IWU Twilight Classic marks the first collegiate meet held on the new and improved course, which began renovations in 2012.

Head Coach John Foss, Cross Country and Track Director of Operations Eric Jackson and Athletic Director Mark DeMichael collaborated to turn the idea of a new course into a reality.

The renovated course has permanent mile and kilometer markers.

The renovated course has permanent mile and kilometer markers.

Jackson said he tried to design the course with spectators in mind.

“I think the biggest thing in cross country is keeping your spectators involved,” said Jackson. “I think they can see them four to five times in a 5K race, which is really good for cross country.”

Coach Foss said there was nothing particularly bad about the old course, but the new course addresses some minor problems. Narrow spots have been widened, and the course no longer crosses Wildcat Drive.

Flags line the new start and finish lines, mile and kilometer markers are posted throughout the course, and more than 100 trees have been planted on the course.

“Coach Jackson has just done an excellent job in building it up and making it look like a high-level course,” said John Wilson (jr). “It looks very professionally done which is really cool.”

The wider course allows IWU to host more teams at junior high, high school and collegiate meets. Jackson said more than 2,000 high school runners competed in last week’s Marion Invitational, nearly double the amount of runners compared to last year’s meet.

The course has remained very flat, which in turn makes it very fast.

“We don’t have so much to work with here in Indiana, so you can’t complain too much,” said Jordan Dekker (so). “I like that it’s fast.”

The women's cross country team practices on the new course Tuesday Sept. 9.

The women’s cross country team practices on the new course Tuesday Sept. 9.

“Speed is good, especially nowadays,” said Coach Foss. “A lot of times national rankings are determined on times.”

Both Coach Foss and Dekker think running the course everyday at practice will give the teams an edge Friday night.

“The more you run you just are familiar with your surroundings,” said Dekker. “It just seems to go faster, which is obviously an advantage.”

“I wish we ran on it more,” said Coach Foss. “We would like to see [the Twilight Classic] get up to 12 or 15 [teams], it’d definitely be an advantage.”

A good showing at the Twilight Classic can give the teams momentum heading into the rest of the season. Coach Foss has set a very clear season goal for both teams: winning the Crossroads League.

“That’ll be very difficult because Taylor University would be the favorite on both sides,” said Coach Foss. “We’d be next in line so upsetting them and winning the league would be a goal.”

Winning the Crossroads League secures an automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament. Both teams have set the goal of finishing in the Top 15 at Nationals, and Coach Foss thinks they can accomplish it.

“I’m really excited just to see what they can do,” said Coach Foss. “I think the doors are wide open as to what they can accomplish.”

 

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Spring sports teams adapt to long winter

Indiana Wesleyan University sports teams have battled an extra opponent this spring: the ever-changing weather.

Emily Sell (sr) fields a ball at her shortstop position. The Wildcats got in a doubleheader versus Marian March 28 before unfavorable weather cancelled the following day's games.

Emily Sell (sr) fields a ball at her shortstop position. The Wildcats got in a doubleheader versus Marian March 28 before unfavorable weather cancelled the following day’s games.

Athletic Director Mark DeMichael said more than half of the scheduled spring sporting events so far have been rescheduled or cancelled due to the weather. DeMichael blamed the long winter and heavy snowfall for setting teams back to start the season.

“When the snow goes away, that doesn’t mean the field is ready,” DeMichael said. “I’ve been here 17 years, and this is easily the worst winter we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

According to DeMichael, IWU coaches collaborate with opponent’s coaches to decide whether an event will be played, rescheduled or cancelled. Ultimately, the home team’s coach makes a judgment call about the game. After a coach makes the decision to cancel, the teams have to communicate with their athletic directors, groundskeepers, transportation and game officials to decide on a date to make up the event, if possible.

“It’s a pain; it’s just not a fun process,” said DeMichael.

Baseball head coach Chad Newhard said rescheduling isn’t ideal, but the team is used to the process.

“We’ve played three games on the regularly scheduled time at the facility that they were supposed to be at, but that’s typical stuff,” Newhard said April 9. “Our guys do a really good job of handling it and they understand it’s part of [the game].”

Members of the baseball team practice in Troyer Fieldhouse. The long winter has greatly affected the baseball team's ability to practice outside.

Members of the baseball team practice in Troyer Fieldhouse. The long winter has affected the team’s ability to practice outside.

Newhard said low temperatures early in the baseball season caused the most cancellations,

“We’ve had to move some games because of rain,” Newhard said. “But usually temperature, especially in March, is kind of the biggest deal if we can play or not.”

The baseball team has been fortunate to make up some games at a turf facility in Westfield, Ind.

“We’ve gotten fortunate to have a couple other facilities open up,” Newhard said, “and we’ve been able to play there so it’s really helped us out.”

The men’s golf team has not been so lucky. The team had to cancel its only home match of the season, the IWU Spring Invitational, and fought through lightning, rain and hailstorms to finish the NAIA Brickyard Classic last week. The IWU Spring Invitational was supposed to be Coach Austin Conroy’s first match as head coach of the men’s golf team. Conroy said it’s nearly impossible to reschedule golf matches.

“In the spring season there’s not really much you can do to move it,” Conroy said. “It’s tough and it’s hard as a coach, honestly, not to get frustrated.”

Coach Conroy said he tries to focus on how players can grow through the adversity of severe weather conditions.

Conroy said, “If they’re comfortable with [the weather] and just realize that and stick through it mentally, that’s kind of the most important thing.”

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Moving on up: How IWU gets NCAA talent to go NAIA

Less than two weeks after winning the NAIA Division II National Championship, the Indiana Wesleyan University men’s basketball team registered another big victory.

Greg Tonagel hopped on an elliptical machine on a Friday morning. It was the only chance he had to talk in the midst of a busy time for the Wildcats head coach. If Tonagel had earned any rest by capturing the program’s first national title March 18 with a 78-68 win against Midland University, it was a privilege soon forfeited.

His team's season is over, but men's basketball coach Greg Tonagel has kept very busy.

His team’s season is over, but men’s basketball coach Greg Tonagel has kept very busy.

“It’s definitely been one of the busiest weeks of my life,” Tonagel said as he started pumping away on the machine. “But when my busyness looks like this I’ll welcome it any time when it’s centered around good news for our program and good news for our university.”

The latest good news came in the 5’10″ form of Indiana University sophomore guard Jonny Marlin, who officially announced his transfer to IWU March 31.

The path to Marlin’s arrival began even before the former Indiana University Purdue Fort Wayne starter walked on to IU’s team in 2013.

“We recruited him out of high school and we told him that if he ever transferred to consider us,” Tonagel said as he pumped away on the elliptical. “He waited until the season was over, talked with his coach and pretty much had his mind made up where he was going to go based on that past relationship.”

Indiana University transfer Jonny Marlin is one of the latest in a string of recent Division I transfers. (Photo courtesy of IU Athletic Deparment)

Indiana University transfer Jonny Marlin is one of the latest in a string of recent Division I transfers. (Photo courtesy of IU Athletic Deparment)

Marlin isn’t the first NCAA athlete to make the switch to the pride of Marion, Ind. If recent trends are any indication, he won’t be the last.

IWU Athletic Director Mark DeMichael said these transfers happen “pretty regularly,” with a particularly noticeable increase during the last five years.

“It’s pretty common now where our coaches in all sports are recruiting athletes that are also being recruited by Division I schools,” DeMichael said. “Over the course of the recruiting process, our coaches are building relationships with Division I-caliber athletes and their families. That’s how we recruit, we recruit based on who we are as a university and building relationships.”

It’s these relationships which have parlayed into NCAA talents dawning a Wildcat jersey in several sports, headlined by names such as Claire Ray, Paige Smith, Tyrone Martin, men’s basketball star RJ Mahurin and even newfound women’s soccer coach Tim Strader.

Katrina Blackmon of the women’s basketball team started her college career at NCAA Division I school Wright State University, transferring to IWU in 2012.

“I wanted to go somewhere where basketball wasn’t seen as a job; I was looking for the love of the game,” Blackmon said, adding that life outside athletics is another reason she’s glad she came back to her Marion roots. “Coach is really involved, making sure that not only are we getting the best out of basketball but the best out of life and what’s to come after we’re done playing.”

If you ask DeMichael, he’ll tell you that’s IWU’s goal and a point of interest for potential NCAA transfers.

Katrina Blackmon (dribbling the ball) transferred from Wright State University in the fall of 2012, and helped IWU women's basketball to a national championship in 2013.

Katrina Blackmon (dribbling the ball) transferred from Wright State University in the fall of 2012, and helped IWU women’s basketball to a national championship in 2013.

“Not to make a blanket statement about Division I, but in a lot of cases you’re in a program where it’s purely about winning,” DeMichael said. “[Athletes] think back to what they were told by the coaches at Indiana Wesleyan and what [we have] to offer and the investment into the whole student-athlete spiritually, academically.”

That’s a mission all of IWU’s athletic department can get on board with. Even a busy coach who just won a national championship with a former NCAA player helping lead the way.

“What I’ve heard from our recruits and our players is that [we] offer them an elite experience,” Tonagel said, continuing his steady pedal. “That’s a combination of the people who are going to invest in your lives, but also a high level from the way we’re going to travel, house, the different places we’re going to go, the locker room.”

But even with the influx of Division I transfer athletes, don’t expect IWU’s recruiting focus to shift. DeMichael plans to keep pumping away at what’s been working for the Wildcats, taking the NCAA crossovers as added bonuses.

“Because our philosophy is about the mentoring and the growth spiritually, academically, athletically, that’s much more effective and you can do that much better when you have young people for four years,” DeMichael said. “High school student-athletes are always going to be the foundation of our recruiting focus.”

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Haughey’s spirit key in Wildcat title run

By the time Garvin Haughey (sr) reached the court it was already decided. Only 4.2 seconds remained in  his Indiana Wesleyan University Wildcats’ 78-68 victory against Midland University in the NAIA DII Men’s Basketball National Championship Finals. Game over.

Referees had to tell the Wildcat bench, led by Haughey (in red), to calm down several times during the championship game.

Referees had to tell the Wildcat bench, led by Haughey (in red), to calm down several times during the championship game.

Yet Haughey’s quick entrance carried a significant amount of meaning to it.

Not only because the game marked Haughey’s last as a collegiate basketball player. Not only because of the uproarious applause Wildcat fans and players presented to him as he trotted towards the scorer’s table to check in. Not only because Wildcat fans consistently chanted for him to be inserted into the game during the season. But because IWU head coach Greg Tonagel believes this 6-foot-3 senior was a vital part of the Wildcats’ championship team and he wanted to let him get playing time.

“He’s had a huge impact on this program and without him, we wouldn’t have won a national championship, and that says a lot about a kid who didn’t play,” Tonagel said. “It meant everything to get him in.”

Haughey was already contributing to the game in his own way at his spot near the end of the literal and metaphorical Wildcat bench. He spent most of Tuesday night shouting encouragement to his teammates and being one of the first to welcome players back to the sideline during timeouts. That energy spilled onto the court and helped fuel the win.

“It’s always a goal to have the refs tell you to sit down, but the refs started coming up to us at the beginning of games in this tournament telling us to sit down so it was definitely a plus there,” Haughey said. “There was definitely a little bit of extra enthusiasm.”

Haughey rarely played during his four years at IWU, but played a big part in the team's success.

Haughey rarely played during his four years at IWU, but played a big part in the team’s success.

But that’s just part of his mentality as a player. Haughey was the last player off the court during warm-ups right before the last game of the season tipped off. He was also the first one out of the locker room at halftime, leading his team back onto the court for IWU’s final push to a title.

The fact that he also had the chance to play in every tournament contest was, as he put it, “a nice little cherry on top.”

“To touch the court in all five games, I can’t put it into words,” Haughey said after the game while sporting his national championship t-shirt. “A lot of people put success into this national championship, but seeing the growth in my teammates means a whole lot more than this.”

These qualities are just one of the traits that caused Tonagel to pay Haughey a lofty compliment: “Garvin will go down as the greatest leader to ever wear a Wildcat uniform.”

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