The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 3, 2013

Missouri Southern runners take aim at MIAA crowns

By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor

— Tom Rutledge would like nothing better than an encore performance from his Missouri Southern men’s track and field team.

“The kids performed very well last weekend in adverse weather,” he said. “Hopefully we can put it together again.”

The Lions are among the pre-meet team favorites as the MIAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships are contested this weekend in Hays, Kan. Action starts at 2 p.m. today with the men’s decathlon and women’s heptathlon. Competition begins at 10 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

“Pittsburg State is going to be very tough to beat,” Rutledge said. “They have the numbers, they have the placers. It could be any of four or five teams as it usually is. Lincoln will be in there along with Central Missouri, Emporia State and us.

“Numbers on the chart don’t mean anything, but it’s 135 (for PSU) to 121 (for MSSU). We have to make up some points. I have faith in these guys. We can do that. We’ve had a few injuries, but so has everybody else. That’s how it is. It’s good to be a contender. You have a chance. That’s all we need.”

By contrast, Lincoln is the overwhelming favorite in the women’s meet.

“Lincoln is one of the teams to beat in the national championships,” Lions women’s coach Patty Vavra said. “They have been ranked from first to third in the nation. They definitely have depth in the sprints, and  now they have points all over the track with good distance runners. It will be tough for anybody to beat them.”

The Lions have two top qualifying marks in the men’s field — Michael Juergens in the pole vault (17 feet) and Dustin Green in the shot put (56-41⁄2). The Lions have three of the top seven marks in both events.

Green also ranks second in the discus and third in the hammer throw. Darion Boure and Jayce Thomas rank 2-3 in the triple jump, and Seth Hackney and Clark Tanksley are fourth in the shot put and high jump, respectively.

“Pittsburg is good where we are good — shot, discus, hammer, triple jump,” Rutledge said. “There will be a lot of swing points there.”

Lions sprinter Jeff Fraley ranks second in both the 100 and 200 meters. No. 4 seeds belong to Eric Schott in the 10,000 and the Lions’ 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams.

“We’ll give them a run and hope we hold up,” Rutledge said. “We’ll do the best we can and hope for the best. I love it. It’s awesome. If it was easy, it would not be as much fun.”

The bulk of Missouri Southern’s points in the women’s meet will come from the field events.

Melanie Bower ranks No. 1 in the pole vault (12-31⁄2), and Kaylee Morgan has the top mark in the long jump (19-41⁄4).

Kylie Cornman is second in the shot put, Ashleigh McFarland is third in the pole vault, Whitney Hardy is fourth in the high jump and Brittani Reagan is third in the triple jump and fifth in the long jump.

“We’ll contend for some championships in a few events,” Vavra said. “Some of our strengths are strong in the conference. Brittani has gone 40 feet in the triple jump and ranks third in the league. Whitney has a strong provisional and is the fourth best high jumper in our conference.

“We will struggle to contend (for team honors) with the number of injuries that have hit our team this spring. We do not have the depth we typically would have, especially on the track with the adversity and sickness we’ve had. We’ll compete hard. It will be a tough meet for us.”

The Lions’ highest seed on the track is a fifth place by the 4x100 relay team.