The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

February 21, 2013

Fraley, Bower rank as defending champs for Southern teams

There are five new teams — three women and two men — in this year’s MIAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.

“That is the unanswered question going into this meet,” Missouri Southern women’s coach Patty Vavra said. “With the addition of these teams, what role will that play in the conference finishes. Having more depth in every event, it becomes more and more difficult to score.”

Nebraska-Kearney’s men are expected to make an immediate impact on the team championship race.

“Kearney has a very balanced team,” Lions men’s coach Tom Rutledge said. “They are more of a track team than cross country.

“Central Missouri has a lot of bullets like they always do. I believe Pittsburg State will give it a run. They have good quality people. Emporia (State) and Southwest Baptist have good people.”

As for the Lions, “I think we’re going to give them a run for it,” Rutledge said. “We hope to place our people correctly and for them to have a good meet, which they can. Not having my top two distance runners — Eric Schott (Achilles) and Adrian Todd (fractured foot) ... I’d feel a lot more confident with them, but we have to make up some ground somewhere.”

The women’s team favorite is obvious.

“Lincoln will be very tough to beat,” Vavra said. “You used to say Lincoln had great sprinters, but now they have great distance runners, they will score multiple times in the triple jump, they have a good pentathlete. They still don’t have any pole vaulters, but now they are not only extremely dominant in the sprints, but they have gained balance in the other events as well.”

The indoor meet begins today with competition in the men’s and women’s multi events. Field events start at 1:45 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday, and running events begin at 4 on Saturday (prelims) and 12:15 on Sunday (finals).

Each Missouri Southern team has one returning champion — Jeff Fraley in the 200 meters and Melanie Bower in the pole vault.

This year Fraley ranks second in the 200, third in the 60 and fifth in the 400.  But he’ll run in two relays this weekend and not the 400.

The Lions’ Darion Boure has the top mark in the triple jump (49 feet, 5 inches). Seth Hackney (shot put) and the distance medley relay are other No. 2 seeds. Jayce Thomas ranks third in the heptathlon, and fourths belong to Clark Tanksley (high jump), Michael Juergens (pole vault), Dustin Green (shot) and Evan Moore (weight throw).

“Our shot put looks extremely good,” Rutledge said. “It came alive last weekend.”

Bower led a 1-2-3-4 finish by the Lions last year, and three of them are in the top seven this season — Sydney Haase second, Bower tied for fourth and Ashleigh McFarland seventh.

The Lions have the top performances in three women’s events — Kaitlyn Belisle in the 5,000 (17:38.92), Kylie Cornman in the shot put (47-8 1/2) and the distance medley relay team (12:04.27).

Belisle’s time is more than seven seconds faster than the rest of the field. But she’s not running the 5K; instead, she’s joining Jasmin Hughes, Sydney Potts and Rachel Schrader in the DMR.

“The 5,000 and DMR are back-to-back (on Saturday night),” Vavra said. “This is one more opportunity for them to make the national meet. That’s a difficulty of the conference meet, weighing someone or some team qualifying for national and still score as many points as you can for the team.”

Schrader is seeded second in the mile, and thirds belong to Belisle in the 3,000 and Brittani Reagan in the triple jump. Kaylee Morgan ranks fourth in the long jump.

“The thing that we have to do is control what we can control, and that’s our own performances,” Vavra said. “We have a rich tradition of showing up well at the conference meet, and I think that expectation in this meet will carry on with this group.

“The MIAA is easily one of the strongest conferences in the nation. You have to better than equal your best performance of the year to be able to compete in the conference.”

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