Gray heads off to a third place finish in the OAC Indoor championships in Alliance, Ohio on March 1. Photo courtesy of the Otterbein Athletic Department
Abbey Gray had a season she thought she could never top last year. As a sophomore for the Otterbein University women’s track and field team, Gray set school indoor records in the 60 meter dash (8.01 seconds) and 60 meter hurdles (9.14). However it took Gray all of five meets this winter to reset those records. The graduate of Waynesfield-Goshen High School topped her hurdle record by running a 9.02 in a preliminary heat of the SPIRE Indoor Track and Field Championships Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 in Geneva, Ohio. She then reset the hurdle record (8.97) and the 60 dash record (7.98) at the All-Ohio meet Feb. 15 at Otterbein. “When I came in as a freshman, I saw all the upper classmen and you think about being that good one day,” says Gray, who is ranked 11th nationally in the 60 hurdles in the Feb. 26 NCAA Division III Event Report. “To (have a school record) feels really incredible.” This winter Gray has avoided the injuries that slowed her down her previous two seasons with Otterbein. She was bothered by a tweaked hamstring as a freshman and as a sophomore and went through a bout of mononucleosis right before her sophomore season. One thing that has helped Gray has been the addition of hurdling coach Austin Curbow, a graduate assistant who has been working with athletes on their preseason conditioning to prevent injuries. Gray put in more time in the weight room and working on her speed prior to the school year. “Each year she improves her capabilities,” coach Dave Lehman says. “I’m sure she’s not 100 percent (healthy) but any athlete training at a high level is going to go through certain things. Abbey has probably been a little healthier this winter than she has been the last couple of years and obviously that makes a bit of a difference. “She is a pretty talented young lady. She’s worked really hard and tends to have a very positive attitude about everything.” Gray showcased her versatility at the Ohio Athletic Conference championships Feb. 28-March 1 at Alliance, Ohio. She scored 22 points as the Cardinals finished second with 118 points behind host Mount Union (219). The junior went faster and jumped further in each of her four events except the 60 dash than she had in the two previous OAC indoor championships. However a Herculean effort by Baldwin-Wallace sophomore Melanie Winters overshadowed Gray’s performance. Gray earned all-OAC honors by taking third in the 60 hurdles (9.2 seconds) behind Winters (who set an OAC record 8.84) and Mount Union senior Taylor Ruffing (9.04) and in the long jump (17 feet, 5.5 inches) behind Winters (who set a conference record 18-9.75) and Mount Union sophomore Veronica Clutter (17-8). Gray also placed fourth in the 60 dash (8.05) behind Winters (in an OAC record 7.82), Ruffing (7.97) and Heidelberg freshman Bethany Beaver (8.02) and was fourth (26.8) in the 200 behind Capital’s Caitlin Prange (25.82), Mount Union’s Lisa Brasdovich (26.16) and Ruffing (26.18). “(Winters) couldn’t have had a better meet. She blew everyone out of the water,” Gray says. “But overall it was a good day for me and the team. My hurdles didn’t go exactly like I hoped but it wasn’t a terrible time, so I can’t complain.” Jenna D'Errico (pole vault, in a school record 11-8) captured the only title for the women’s team. Andrew Mantell, (the 1,600, 4:23.16 and the 800, 1:56.23) and the distance medley relay of Mantell, Joseph Montoya, Seth Lloyd and Richard Gopel (10:24.44) placed first for the men’s team, which finished fourth overall with 83 points. Winning an OAC title has eluded Gray so far in her career. Last year she was the top seed in the 60 hurdles at the OAC indoor meet after running a 9.17 in the preliminaries. In the finals, she was knocked off her stride when she banged into the fourth hurdle and placed third (9.34), finishing behind teammate Rachel McKeever (9.25) and Ruffing (9.31). “(Hitting a hurdle is) not that uncommon for me. I have a problem with my trail leg,” says Gray, who also grazed the final hurdle at this year’s OAC championship. “At first I felt like I had let my team down. When the time came up on the board, I saw Rachel turn around and she had the biggest smile on her face. Seeing how happy she was softened the sting. “It was very disappointing but I really think being so close to winning a conference title last season is driving a lot of my efforts and passion this season.” Coming from tiny Goshen to Otterbein, whose women’s track team roster is nearly as large as her graduating class, was an adjustment for Gray. “I’m sure Otterbein isn’t that different for people who went to a bigger high school, but this was a big jump for me coming from such a small town,” says Gray, who didn’t run the sprint hurdles until her junior year of high school. “I didn’t have a lot of hurdling experience coming into college but that ended up being one of my strongest events.” While she may have come from a high school that currently has 315 males and 285 females, Gray has always done well on a big competition stage. Her senior year at Goshen, Gray helped the Warriors place fifth overall in the 2011 Division III state meet with 29 points behind Steubenville Catholic Central (41). Gray teamed up with her twin cousins, Morgan and Ivy Horn and classmate Frankie James to win the 400 relay (48.93). Individually she took seventh in the 300 hurdles (46.89) and sixth in the long jump (17-0.5). Track success seems to run in her family bloodline. Morgan Horn is currently running for Tiffin while Ivy competes for Ohio State. The Horn’s older brother Gray Horn was a five-time SEC champion for the University of Florida and placed third in the decathlon at 2012 Olympic Trials. “I come from a long line of runners in my family,” Gray says. “It was one of the things we all did.” Lehman believes that if Gray can stay healthy, she could have a great outdoor season to complement her indoor one. “It’s a little unusual to have an athlete that has the ability to excel in so many different areas,” Lehman says. “The biggest thing I have seen is she has been more consistent this year. She doesn’t have as many ups and downs. She has just been showing steady progress.”

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