A fellow Eagle, senior Jim Toth, is having a breakout final indoor season.
It would be a mistake, however, to overlook Ashland University junior Nick Zak at the 2019 D-II Indoor Championships, Friday and Saturday (March 8-9). Zak is the No. 4 seed in the men's weight throw, which will be contested on Friday at 4:55 p.m.
"I'm just looking forward to going out to compete," said Zak. "My teammates, just feed off each other, and try to perform to the best of my ability."
Zak, who was a weight throw All-American in 2017 after placing sixth at indoor nationals, has made a steady progression in the event over the years. His top season distances have gone from 19.91 meters/65-feet-4 as a redshirt freshman, to 20.40 meters/66-feet-11¼ as a sophomore, to 20.74 meters/68-feet-0½ this winter.
Hailing from less than an hour away in Brunswick, Ohio, Zak said he liked AU when coming to track and field camps prior to becoming an Eagle.
"I grew to like the campus, just the atmosphere that Ashland had," he said. "Once I got to meet coach (Jud) Logan, he just sold it to me, and I fell in love with the program. You just learn to trust everything, and let him take the steering wheel, and just do what he says."
Both Zak and Hill came onto camp at the same time, and are roommates, in addition to competing with and against each other in the weight throw indoors and the hammer throw outdoors.
"We're really good friends," Zak said. "We have a really good relationship on and off the track."
With Fairbanks (No. 1), Hill (No. 3), Zak and Toth (No. 13), the Eagle men have four of the top 13 Division II men's weight throwers entering nationals.
"The atmosphere that's at practice, that each of us bring, we feed off each other," said Zak. "It's just so good for a practice, and then correlating that over to a meet, it just does some crazy things, and people just break out."
Zak continues to progress in the indoor shot put, as well, posting a career-long heave of 17.27 meters/56-feet-8 at the 2019 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships. He wants to get to 2019 outdoor nationals (May 23-25 in Kingsville, Texas) in that event, after an early-season injury prevented him from getting that far this winter.
"I only had two regular-season meets before conference, so there was a lot of opportunities missed," Zak said, "and didn't have as many repetitions as I needed. Definitely makes me more hungry to attack outdoor and get a qualifying spot in the shot."
With nine Eagle men going to nationals, and with the team having been ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the country for the entire regular season, thoughts of winning a team national title do arise.
"I definitely feel like, if everything lines into place, this team definitely has a chance to do something special," Zak said. "(I want to) perform to where I know I can perform. Obviously, last year, I didn't have the best indoor meet (14th place in the weight throw). I just want to perform to where I know I'm capable of.
"As a team, I know we're capable of doing really special things."