The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

March 1, 2014

Indoor track, field championships filled with national contenders

To prove the caliber of athletes in this weekend’s MIAA indoor track and field championships, simply look at Jeff Fraley.

Fraley, junior sprinter from Missouri Southern, ranks third in the conference in the 60-meter dash. And, he ranks third in NCAA Division II.

“Third in the conference and third in the nation,” Lions men’s coach Bryan Schiding said. “That shows the strength of our conference.”

The conference meet, which began Friday afternoon with the men’s heptathlon and women’s pentathlon, gets into full swing today with field events at 1:30 p.m. and the running preliminaries at 4:15 at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center. Tonight’s schedule concludes with the finals in the 5,000 meters at 7:25 and distance medley relay at 8:10.

The conference meet includes 19 men’s entries and 22 women’s entries that rank top-10 in the nation.

“What I tell the girls every year is you have to come up with a bigger-than-best performance,” Missouri Southern women’s coach Patty Vavra said. “In our conference people come and compete and compete well. If you think the mark you have that put you at the top of the conference is going to get it done … probably not. You’ll be left standing in the dust.”

Romel Lewis of Lincoln has the top mark in the 60 at 6.66 seconds, followed by Deneko Brown of Southwest Baptist (6.70) and Fraley (6.71). In the 200, Fraley is first in the league and third in the nation (21.63), followed by Lewis (21.86, No. 8) and William Shell of Southwest Baptist (21.87, No. 9).

There also will be strong competition in the pole vault as Pittsburg State’s Jeff Piepenbrink is tops in the nation at 17 feet, 11⁄2 inches, and Missouri Southern’s Brady Melugin (16-91⁄4) and Michael Juergens (16-51⁄4) are third and sixth, respectively, in the nation.

The women’s meet has three top-10 national marks in the high jump, 60-meter hurdles and 800 meters.

Other top seeds from Missouri Southern’s men are Darion Boure in the triple jump (49-71⁄4, No. 4 nationally), Eric Schott in the 5K (14:36.70) and the distance medley relay team (10:16.89).

“I think we’ll do well,” Schiding said. “We have some other guys in the sprints. Erron Holley has had a great year. Anthony Price in the 400, our mile guys and 3K guys should do well.

“We’re bringing a balanced attack to the meet with the exception of we don’t have a lot of throwers. We don’t have the numbers in the jumping events that we’ve had the last two years because of preseason injuries, but the athletes we do have jumping should score high in those events.”

Triple jumper Brittani Reagan (39-8) is the lone top seed for the Lion women. Kylie Cornman is second in both the shot put and weight throw, and Kaitlyn Belisle is second in the 5K.

“I think our young ladies are ready,” Vavra said. “They’ve done the work all year, and now they have to go out and get it done on that particular day, whether it is Saturday or Sunday.

“This meet is about getting great marks to qualify for the national meet, and it’s also about team pride. It’s really the only meet in the indoor season that is about scoring points and doing what you can for the team. That’s the big motivation, to come up big for Missouri Southern, for the Green and Gold.”

Pittsburg State

Piepenbrink in the pole vault is one of six No. 1 seeds from Pittsburg State this weekend.

Adam Volkert and Jessica Macy, the two conference cross country champions last fall, have the fastest times in the 3,000 meters, and Macy is also the top seed in the 5K.

In the field events, Keenan Soles has the nation’s best mark in the long jump (25-8), and Luke Wilson is tied for first in the weight throw with Michael Thalken of Nebraska-Kearney.

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