The Tiffin University men’s indoor track and field team made school history last year. Not only did they win the team’s first National Championship, but it was also Tiffin’s first national title in any sport. It was a very special moment for all of those involved.
“It was a very unique experience,” senior thrower Coy Blair said. “As individual of a sport that it seems, it’s such a team sport as well. We [throwers] didn’t do what we needed to do at the national meet, but everyone else stepped up and did better than what they were expected to do. Being able to be a part of that and see how so many people can come together and do something so special, it was incredible.”
Blair, a two-time All-American and the school record holder in nearly every shot put, weight and hammer throw event in both the indoor and outdoor seasons, has had an incredible journey since redshirting his freshman season. What has made him stronger over the years was the valuable lesson, especially from last season’s National Championship run. Personal ribbons and records are dwarfed in comparison to holding up that trophy.
“When I was younger, it was very much a 'me-me-me' thing,” Blair said. “The older I get, it has become how can I contribute the most to the team. It’s how can I get others to give the most to the team. Individual titles are nice, but individual titles don’t win team titles. People care about team titles, no one cares about individual titles.”
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This season, for the first time in program’s history, the Dragons will be looking to defend the crown. Blair sees it as a challenge that can only help propel him and his teammates even further than they already have gone.
“This is my third year at Tiffin,” Blair said. “Each year we’ve picked up either ahead or right where we left off the season before. This year we have the momentum from last year. It’s a big boost because people will want to succeed. They’re going to have to work hard if they want to be a part of the travel team. If they want to be part of something great, they have to work harder, it pushes everyone else to succeed and get where they need to be.”
For Blair, the road back to Birmingham is even tougher. The Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is not simply a track and field powerhouse. It is arguably the premier conference in the throws department.
“Our conference, to me, on the throw scene is 80 percent of the national meet,” Blair said. “If you make the conference final, you’re making the national meet. If you don’t show up on the day, you’re going to get embarrassed. If I constantly have that in the back of my head that failure is not an option, it helps me push to do the things I need to do. I can’t have bad days.”
That awareness makes each and every meet important. Despite his many accolades, Blair has a greater knowledge of the end result, and even loftier aspirations beyond college. The many records and awards aside, Blair still has personal goals this season.
“Bringing my bottom number up,” Blair said. “I shouldn’t leave a meet under 19 meters. Looking forward, everyone has those dreams of turning pro and going to the next level. I had my first taste of it this summer. I went to the Olympic Trials and competed there. What it taught me most is that I belong there, but it also taught me that I am far away from where I need to be.”
Perhaps the most special part of the National Championship was Tiffin winning for their mentor. Head coach Jeremy Croy has been there for nearly two decades, and has built the Dragons program into an annual contender. Holding that trophy up with him was a memorable experience.
“Coach Croy is a very special individual,” Blair said. “He works with different people, but he relates with everybody. He truly has the athletes best interest at heart. He can be tough on you, but most of the time he’s going to be your biggest fan. He’ll also be your biggest critic, and he’s going to hold you to a higher standard than you even hold for yourself. He’s a parent outside of my home. I know no matter what happens he’s going to be the person there to back me or correct me, good or bad.”
The journey back to Birmingham, Alabama, truly begins this weekend with the Northwest Ohio Open. It is a chance for Blair and his teammates to set a new standard for Tiffin and put a stamp on the 2017 year right out of the gates.
“As a team, we’re looking to just set some marks and open some eyes outside of just Tiffin,” Blair said. “We have a lot of talented people that are capable of doing extraordinary things. It’s just a matter of getting it all to come together. That’s what these meets during the season are. Stepping stones that make everything come together in the end.”