The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

March 29, 2014

Lions open 'short' track season

It’s a short outdoor track and field season for Missouri Southern and the other MIAA schools.

The Lions open their season today at the Pittsburg State Invitational, but the conference meet is just five weeks away.

“Coming off spring break (last week), the season is very short,” Lions women’s coach Patty Vavra said. “We’re getting our feet wet this weekend, but we don’t have much time before we start swimming pretty hard.”

The weather this week hasn’t been cooperative as the Lions move outdoors.

“It’s been an interesting week of ups and downs,” men’s coach Bryan Schiding said. “Thursday it was beautiful and 70 degrees, but there was lightning in the area and we couldn’t get on the track. We went outside Monday — the coldest day of the week — but we’ve been indoors since.”

Both Missouri Southern teams are picked second in the coaches preseason polls behind the Pittsburg State men and Lincoln women.

The Lions had five All-American performances at the Division II indoor championships earlier this month — Darion Boure in the triple jump, Michael Juergens and Brady Melugin in the pole vault, Amber White in the 400 meters and Kaylee Morgan in the long jump. Juergens, however, has used all his eligibility.

The MSSU women anticipate multiple points in the distance races and horizontal jumps.

“We saw at the indoor conference meet we have a good strong core in the distance races,” Vavra said. “We have good horizontal jumpers, good pole vaulters.

“We also have a good high jumper, good thrower, good sprinters. We have some quality performers in those areas but we don’t have the same depth that we have in the distance races and jumps.”

The Lions’ depth in the pole vault has been hurt. Melanie Bower was injured early in the indoor season and will not compete outdoors. Sydney Haase was hurt late in the indoor season and will miss the start of the outdoor season.

On the men’s team, sprinter Jeff Fraley continues to recover from the hamstring pull he suffered at the indoor championships.

“He’s starting to feel better quicker than we anticipated,” Schiding said. “We won’t run him for two or three weeks. There is no rush to get him back at this point.”

The Lion men also are strong in the distance events.

“Our middle distance and distance runners should be extremely strong, especially after the positive note that the indoor season ended for the majority of them,” Schiding said.

“We expect the same performance across the board from the jumpers. There is an extra sprint relay, which hopefully we will be strong in, and there is the steeplechase, another distance event.”

It’s a balancing act for the coaches and athletes as the outdoor season begins.

“We have aches and pains, bumps and bruises from the indoor season,” Schiding said. “We won’t run everybody (today). I don’t expect any school-record performances, but I will not be surprised if we have some strong performances.”

“You have to let them recover from the indoor season,” Vavra said. “But the athletes coming off indoor nationals are fit, and you might want them to get a good mark today and then let them recover. That’s the challenge of our job as coaches of individual athletes, what to do with each one of them.”

The Lions have two home meets — the Bill Williams/Bob Laptad Invitational on April 25 and a last chance meet the week after the conference meet at Lincoln.

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