But is his supporting cast strong enough to propel the Golden Flashes to the top of the MAC?
"We redshirted several athletes on our men's team, and that's knocked us out of the team race," said Rainbolt, whose squads both finished second a year ago _ the women's team by a single point. "We have too many holes this year to compete with Eastern Michigan. Still we feel like we have enough to finish third, and that would be a nice effort in a 12-team league.
"On the women's side we believe we'll be in the hunt for the title, but we could actually finish anywhere from first to fifth or sixth. The race is so tight, I don't even know who I'd pick as the favorite."
Choosing a favorite in the women's team race may be difficult, but picking Kent senior Leslie Vidmar to win the shot put title doesn't require much prognosticating prowess. Vidmar, a four-time All-American, currently sports the second-best throw in the nation (school-record 54 feet, 8 3/4 inches).
Fellow senior Roberta Collins is a two-time defending MAC outdoor champion in the discus, while senior Teri Girrell is the defending hammer throw champ and senior Julia Laiuvara is a heavy favorite in the 400-meter hurdles.
However, the Flashes will have a tough time overcoming the loss of several other top performers.
Former Mogadore High School star Kim Kreiner and Beth Obruba, the top two javelin throwers in the conference, decided to redshirt this spring while training for the Olympic Trials. And senior multi-eventer Heather Burns, who scored 23 points at last year's outdoor championships, will miss the meet due to injury along with sophomore distance runner Christine Samson.
"If we lose by a couple of points again it'll be tough to take because we know if we had any one of the athletes we're missing, we'd win," said Rainbolt. "We need some people like (freshman) Aja Farris (multi-events) and (sophomores) Lisa Claypool and Colleen Harrison (distances) to help pick up the slack, and we need some help from other teams if we're going to win the meet."
Meanwhile, sophomore sprinter Bobby Cruse (Newton Falls) has had a monster spring season for the Kent men's team. The three-time All-American is currently ranked second in the nation in the 100 meters (10.06) and third in the 200 (20.40).
"I feel like Bobby came here and improved dramatically, then he hit a plateau until this outdoor season," said Rainbolt. "He's taken it to the next level this spring."
Junior Nathan Fanger is the returning champ in the discus, while Rainbolt is also counting on production from former Kent Roosevelt stars Jon Heflin (sophomore, 400 meters) and David Kelly (freshman, 10,000); freshmen Brian Hallett (throws), Byron McKinney (throws) and Ryan Nau (pole vault); junior Karoly Bozan (distance) and senior James Kempfert (sprints).