By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Missouri Southern’s third indoor track meet at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center this season is different from the previous two.
The MSSU Lion Invite begins today at 9 a.m. today with multi-events competition — pentathlon for the women and heptathlon for the men. All five women’s events will be contested today, and the men will have four events today and the last three on Saturday morning.
The Lions have entered Jayce Thomas in the heptathlon and Emily Paullus, Kaylee Morgan and Miriah Johnson in the pentathlon.
“Jayce Thomas could qualify for nationals,” Lions men’s coach Tom Rutledge said. “We had another multi-event athlete but we lost Trey Dorsey to a knee injury playing pickup basketball.”
“Emily is coming back from a hamstring injury,” Lions women’s coach Patty Vavra said. “For Kaylee and Mariah, this will be their first time, and it will be interesting to see how they do. They have an opportunity to be pretty good heptathletes (during the outdoor season) or pentathletes down the way.”
Field events will begin at 2:30 p.m. today and 10:30 Saturday morning. Running events will start today at 5 and Saturday at 3.
Approximately 15 teams are entered, including Pittsburg State and Division I Northwestern State from Natchitoches, La.
“Central Missouri also has a meet this weekend, and they will have a lot of people up north that we sometimes get,” Rutledge said. “We have a lot of junior colleges from Kansas. We have a lot of entries … 50 weight throwers on the men’s side. We have some events that are stacked.”
The Lions have four of the top five pole vaulters in both divisions — Michael Juergens, Raymond Woldtvedt, John Lowe and Brady Melugin on the men’s side and Melanie Bower, Sydney Haase, Ashleigh McFarland and Vanessa Langford on the women’s side.
“We’re looking for our pole vaulters and shot putters to heat it up a little bit,” Rutledge said. “They have been stagnant — doing well but not popping out. I’m hoping this meet they have the opportunity to have gotten their legs under them and see what they can do. Our shot putters are looking very well, and our pole vaulters are starting to get their confidence back. That’s good. We’ll need those people down the stretch.”
The Lions have four more athletes with the best qualifying standard among entries — Clark Tanksley in the men’s high jump, Darion Boure in the men’s triple jump, Jazz Allen in the men’s 60-meter hurdles and Jasmin Hughes in the women’s 200. No. 2 seeds for the Lions are Shelby Sutherland in the women’s high jump, Jeff Fraley in the 60, Emily Weldin in the women’s 600-yard run and the women’s 4x400 relay team.
“We’ve gone through what seems like three grueling weeks of getting back after Christmas break,” Vavra said. “It’s nice to be home in a familiar environment. We’re finally starting to turn the corner a little bit. We have some injuries we’re coming back from, and with the intensity of work we’ve had, I hope to see those much awaited improvements after getting back from Christmas break.
“The big thing is we have people on the bubble with national performance marks that need to be just a bit better. I hope that happens this weekend … and we can make a push into the national championships.”
Rutledge will be looking for improvement from his distance corps.
“Our distance guys are tired. They are not coming around as good, having a hard time recovering from cross country,” Rutledge said. “Jake Benton and Andrew Webster are coming around well. The others are still catching up. It was a hard cross country season.”