By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
With Bill Williams’ love for pole vaulting, it’s only appropriate that some of the top collegiate vaulters in the nation are entered in the annual Bill Williams/Bob Laptad Invitational track and field meet.
Field events start at 12:30 p.m. at Fred G. Hughes Stadium, and running events are scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m.
Jack Whitt of Oral Roberts University, who set the stadium record of 18 feet, 13⁄4 inches one year ago, returns. His top height this season is 18-01⁄2.
In addition, there are three entries from the University of Kansas who have cleared 17 feet, and Jeff Piepenbrink of Pittsburg State is among four others who have cleared 16-4.
“Basically we’ve established ourselves as a pole vault school and people like coming here for it,” Lions men’s coach Tom Rutledge said. “We’ll put the boards (for the runway) in the center of the football field, and we can put them right where the wind as at their back or right off the shoulder so they can get good vaults.
“We have the Mondo surface (on the boards), so they know they are going to get the speed. Sometimes it’s too fast for some of them and they miss steps, but the good ones love it.”
The field of 36 men’s vaulters has been split into two flights. Competition between the higher seeds will begin at approximately 4:30.
The talent certainly isn’t limited to the pole vault.
“We have nice fields in every event, not any events where there are just a few people or are week,” Lions women’s coach Patty Vavra said.
“It’s always been a quality meet, and I think we’re going to have some good performances this year. It’s a good alternative to athletes who don’t make it into the Drake Relays.”
Lions sprinter Jeff Fraley has the fastest qualifying mark in the 100 meters of 10.39 seconds.
“He’s ranked second in the nation (in Division II) in the 100 and 200,” Rutledge said. “But I’m going to pull him out of the 200 today. We’re also under-distancing a lot of our distance runners who ran the 10K last week, let them have fun and work on their foot speed.”
Other Lions with top marks are Michael Polizzi in the discus (171-0) and Dustin Green in the shot put (55-93⁄4, one inch farther than teammate Seth Hackney).
In the women’s meet, three Lions have the best qualifying marks — Lisa Vengels in the high jump (5-8 3/4), Nicole Green in the shot put (49-5 1/4) and Rachel Schrader in the 1,500 meters (4:36).
“I hope we get a couple more nice performances that potentially could be national qualifying marks,” Vavra said. “We have a couple of athletes on the bubble who need improved performances. Our vaulters have been struggling a little bit. I’m hoping that one or more of them can have big jumps and qualify for the national meet.”
Today’s meet is also the final outing for the Lions and other MIAA schools for next week’s conference meet at Emporia State.
“This is a great tuneup meet for us,” Vavra said. “It’s our only opportunity to compete at home in an outdoor setting. And being at the end of the season, it gives us one last look at some athletes in different events, so we know where to cut back in order to peak for next week.”
“We want to maintain our polish and keep them going,” Rutledge said. “If you take off a week, sometimes you lose your timing. We’re using this week to get our timing down and get them ready because it’s going to be a tough conference meet.”