By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
For many years Missouri Southern did not start its indoor track and field season until January.
But again this year, the Lions are hosting an Early Bird Open on Saturday at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
“We can host indoor meets,” Lions men’s coach Tom Rutledge said. “It helps us generate money and we don’t have to travel. We have a nice facility, and we need to use it.
“Our throwers are biting at the bit, and the sprinters and jumpers are anxious. They have been practicing since September. They are ready to go.”
“Many of our track athletes have been training since the second week of school,” MSSU women’s coach Patty Vavra said. “Actually they are pretty fit to run a meet at this time.
“And, an opportunity to compete at this time will help them remember why they are training over the long Christmas break.”
Field events begin at 10 a.m., and the running finals start at 5 p.m.
Pittsburg State, Southwest Baptist, Missouri S&T, Southern Nazarene, Oklahoma Christian and Dallas Baptist are scheduled to enter full teams.
“There will be a lot of bits and pieces from other teams, people who want to get an early start,” Rutledge said. “We wanted to keep it low (key), but it’s blossomed on us. People want to try to run early to see what they have, sprinters and throwers especially.”
The Lions’ distance runners, however, will not run on Saturday. It’s been only three weeks since they ran in the national cross country championships at Missouri Southern.
“We’ll give them an opportunity to get a little bit of rest,” Vavra said. “They had a very good but very emotionally draining cross country season.”
Missouri Southern’s men’s team returns sophomore All-American sprinter Jeff Fraley, who was eighth in the 200 meters in the national meet. He won that race in the conference meet and was third in the 60.
Darion Boure returns after placing second in the conference triple jump behind teammate Taylor McClelland, who is out of eligibility for the indoor season but has one outdoor season left. McClelland will compete unattached on Saturday.
The Lions’ Raymond Woldtvedt tied for second place in the pole vault, and John Lowe was fourth. Seth Hackney (shot put), Clark Tanksley (high jump) and Jayce Thomas (heptathlon) all finished third, and Eric Schott (5,000) was fourth.
“Our jumps are coming along real good, and our pole vaulters are back,” Rutledge said. “Fraley looks strong. He’s picked up right where he left off. We have Anthony Price back, plus we’ve added Erron Holley (a freshman). We have several kids who we think are going to be pretty good in the sprints. We have two hurdlers, Jayce Thomas and Jazz Allen.
“Seth and Evan Moore have been having some really good practices with the throws. Nick Polizzi has been working in the weight throw, and jumper Tylor Albright from Galena went 24 feet in high school.
“I feel we’ll get at least five or six provisionals (on Saturday) if they go out and do their job. One reason is they have lowered some of the provisionals, and the next thing is we look pretty good and are healthy right now.”
The women’s team returns all the pole vaulters who finished 1-2-3-4 in the conference meet — Melanie Bower, Vanessa Langford, Sydney Haase and Ashleigh McFarland. Bower later finished ninth in the national meet, and Langford was 11th.
Jasmin Hughes placed third in conference in the 200, and Kylie Cornman was fifth in the weight throw.
“We have some great individuals across all the different events,” Vavra said. “Our horizontal jumps could be very good. We had a strong and big corps last year. Amber White was all-conference in the triple jump, and we’ve added freshman Kaylee Morgan from Carthage, an all-state long jumper, and Brittani Reagan from Bentonville, a state champion in the triple jump.
“JeAnna Sheppard returns in the hurdles, and we signed a juco transfer, Jackie Wallace who was an All-American at Coffeyville Community College in the hurdles.
“I think we can get some provisionals. Kylie Cornman is throwing very well, and the vaulters look very good. We have a couple of freshmen ... it will be interesting to see what they can do along with Amber White in the jumps and the 400.”
After Saturday, the Lions’ next meet is the MSSU Open Invitational on Jan. 11-12. The Lion Invite is set for Feb. 1-2, and the conference meet is Feb. 22-24 in Warrensburg.