The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

April 25, 2014

MSSU track tunes up for MIAA

Today’s Bob Laptad/Bill Williams Open Invitational track and field meet provides a first and a last for Missouri Southern’s teams.

“It’s our first home competition,” Lions women’s coach Patty Vavra said. “We have not had one at home this season. We’re looking forward to that. We still have the last chance meet in May, but for this group of seniors, this is their last true home event. It’s a giant commitment to be a track and field athlete. It’s nice to see them compete, and we’re hoping for big days across the board with that group.”

“It’s our last tuneup for the conference meet (next weekend in Jefferson City). It’s an opportunity to compete a little better and have some great marks at home, but in the back of your mind, you’re thinking we need to get ourselves focused and ready for the conference meet next week.”

“It’s supposed to be a gorgeous day,” men’s coach Bryan Schiding said. “We are under-distancing most of our distance guys. Everybody is in the 1,500, there are a couple in the 800. The week before conference, you’re not trying to run everybody’s legs off. You want to keep them crisp, quick and healthy going into conference.”

The meet is named after Bob Laptad and the late Bill Williams, two long-time supporters of Missouri Southern’s track and field and cross country programs.

“They are two gentlemen definitely,” Vavra said, “two gentlemen who have been very supportive of our women’s program from the beginning stages when Tom (Rutledge, former coach) started it. They are two guys who were ready and willing to do anything they could to advance our program. They are great fans of track and field. The definitely have the heart of Missouri Southern and the Lions.”

Williams served as a volunteer pole vault coach for many years. As a result, the pole vault is the meet’s featured event.

Oral Roberts, long recognized as a high-caliber pole vault school, is bringing freshman Justin Estala, who has cleared 17 feet, 7 inches, and two women who have cleared 13-1 1/2 — Lauren McFarland and Daniella Szabo.

Missouri Southern’s Brady Melugin has a season best of 16-9, and Pittsburg State’s Jeff Piepenbrink and Jayce Phelps have gone 16-5 1/2.

“The numbers (of entries) are not nearly as high as they were the last couple of years, 18 women and 25 men,” Schiding said. “We still have good numbers. There will be very good competition on the upper end of both the men and women. ORU is bringing its kids, and Pittsburg State, us and Missouri S&T have good vaulters as well.

“Our pole vaulters need to jump a little higher, increase their marks. The national scene in men’s and women’s pole vault is tough. Two weeks ago I felt confident both Ray (Woldtvedt) and Brady would make the cut for nationals, but now Brady is in a tie for 13th place. We need to jump well.”

Schiding also is hoping his long jumpers can hit the mark today. Literally.

“I really feel like Darion Boure and Tylor Albright are knocking on the door of long jumping very well,” he said. “Practices have been going very well. We’re just missing the toeboards in meets. Darion had a decent jump last week, 23-8. Taylor has great mechanics now, he has a great takeoff but he’s still a little inconsistent on the runway. I’ve love to see those guys finally hit the board and jump what we know they can jump.”

Sprinter Jasmin Hughes is expected to make a return to competition today.

“Jasmin hasn’t run since the first week,” Vavra said. “She’s still hindered a bit by a leg injury. We’ll try to get her into a race and she what she can do.”

Approximately 600 athletes are expected to compete.

“It’s a weekend for big meets, the Drake Relays and Penn Relays,” Vavra said. “Sometimes we may not get the whole entire team from different schools. We’ll get a few people from each, but it will still be a significant size and quality at the same time.”

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