The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

January 10, 2014

Lions eager to open indoor track season

— Missouri Southern’s sprinters, jumpers and throwers have reached the light at the end of the tunnel.

“They are biting at the bit,” Lions women’s coach Patty Vavra said. “They’ve been waiting a long time from August to January to be in a meet. Having a meet lends an extra level of motivation to remember why you did all the hard work day in and day out.”

The Lions open their men’s and women’s indoor track and field seasons this weekend with the MSSU Invitational at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

Field events begin today at 2:30 p.m., and the running events start at 5. On Saturday the field events start at 10:30 a.m., and the running finals begin at 3 p.m.

“First meets are always interesting,” Lions men’s coach Bryan Schiding said. “It tells you who trained over break and who did not. I would hope that some of our sprinters are ready to run pretty fast early.

“It’s difficult to say. Before Christmas break I felt we were in some of the best shape we have ever been in. Then we have 3 1/2 weeks of break, and it’s difficult to work out when your team is not around you.”

Both Missouri Southern teams are picked third in the MIAA preseason coaches’ poll.

Sprinter Jeff Fraley returns after winning the conference 200-meter title, and Clark Tanksley (high jump) and Darion Boure (triple jump) also earned all-conference honors.

However, Jayce Thomas, an all-conference performer in the heptathlon and expected to be a leading point producer this year, will miss the indoor and outdoor seasons because of a knee injury, and long jumper Jacob Rose also is out for the rest of the school year with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon.

“Two freak injuries within 15 minutes of the same practice ... this is my 14th year in coaching and I’ve never had anything like that,” Schiding said. “Rose rocked forward and the tendon snapped on his jump leg. Thomas was on the long jump runway, hit the board at an ackward angle and slid a little bit.

“These are two outstanding student-athletes who were still voted team captains. They have great leadership skills and can help the team from the sideline.”

The women’s team finished second in last year’s conference meet and returns three individual champions in Brittani Reagan (long jump), Melanie Bower (pole vault) and Kylie Cornman (shot put).

Cornman earned All-America honors in the shot put, and outdoor All-Americans were Whitney Hardy (high jump), Reagan (long jump and triple jump) and Kaylee Morgan (long jump).

“I think Kylie Cornman is ready to throw the shot well,” Vavra said. “Jasmin Hughes looks pretty good even though she hasn’t sprinted much. She looks stronger than last year. I’m happy to say a couple of our distance runners who were out in the cross country season will run this weekend.

“It’s always interesting to see what we will be like when we open up after being back for four days of practice. The first meet is all about working out the kinks, shaking off the rust from being off several weeks without official practices. This is their first opportunity to show what they have and for us to get a good look at what we need to continue to work on.”

“The opener is a low-key event when we will let the kids go out and not run in their normal events,” Schiding said. “The sprinters are going a little over distance ... they will run the 60 but also the 400 and 600 and 4x400. It’s more of a training meet. Coming back from break, we have next weekend off and then go to KU the following weekend. That’s when we’ll start getting kids in their normal events.

“The pole vaulters, jumpers, throwers and technical event kids, what I’ll do is watch their form. I’m not concerned how high they jump or how far they jump. I want to see if they are running correct on the runway and are technically where they need to be.”

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