Saluki men and women both emerge victorious at conclusion of SIU Invitational

    Junior Oscar Medina won the men's mile by two hundredths of a second after he forced a photo finish on the final stretch.

    Junior Oscar Medina won the men's mile by two hundredths of a second after he forced a photo finish on the final stretch.

    Feb. 8, 2014

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    By Tyler Wooten

    CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Saluki track and field rode 11 event titles to a sweep in both the men's and women's team competition at Day Two of the SIU Invitational at the SIU Student Recreation Center on Saturday.

    Southern (188.50) dominated the team competition on the men's side, as it ended with a 44-point advantage over second-place finisher Southeast Missouri (144.50). The Saluki men took home six of SIU's total 11 event wins, including two individual wins by senior Matthew Benes -- who was also on the winning men's 4x400 meter relay team.

    Benes, a sprinter from Homer Glen, Ill., claimed his first win of the day in the 60 meter hurdles with a personal best time of 8.03 seconds -- the fourth-best time in SIU history and currently the fifth-best time in the Missouri Valley Conference. Right behind Benes in the hurdles was sophomore Kemar Jones, who also posted a PR in second place at 8.05 seconds -- the fifth-best time in school history.

    Next, Benes took the 200 meter dash crown with a time of 22.36 seconds. Benes was surrounded by Saluki maroon in the 200 as Southern placed four additional scorers in the top-eight: Blake Green (fourth, 22.90), William Davis (23.13), Spencer Jackson (23.17) and Louis Dotson (23.35).

    Benes was also a qualifier for finals in the 60 meter dash, where he finished fourth at 7.06 seconds. Junior LaSteven McKinney missed joining Benes in the finals by three hundredths of a second (seventh place, 7.15).

    Junior Oscar Medina kept Southern's success on the track going with a dramatic victory in the mile run. Medina trailed coming around the final turn, but was able to exhaust himself and edge out Western Illinois' Michael Castel on a finish-line lunge by two hundredths of a second with a winning time of 4:14.15. Fellow junior Juan Carrera wash't far behind in third place at 4:17.53.

    In the field events, it was sophomore Josh Freeman (shot put) and freshman Kyle Landon (high jump) who hit success on Saturday. In the shot, Freeman won with a solid throw of 18.97m (62-03.00) -- which, would have been a significant PR three weeks ago had he not shattered the all-time SIU record on Jan. 25 (19.25m/63-02.00).

    Southern earned three more scorers in the shot: Curtis Wideman (third, 16.61m/54-06.00), Brian Cooper (fourth, 16.21m/53-02.25) and Jeff Stewart (sixth, 15.63m/51-03.50).

    Landon won the high jump on a clearance of 2.14m (7-00.25), which is just three centimeters shy of his Valley-leading mark of 2.17m (7-01.50).

    The Saluki women (189) had a similar advantage in the team scores, winning by 49 points over second-place finisher Austin Peay (140). Southern claimed five wins on the women's side, including three in the field -- two of those by senior jumper Kenya Culmer.

    Culmer began her day with a victory in the triple jump on her winning leap of 12.25m (40-02.25). The women's triple turned out to be a profitable event for the Saluki women, as they earned four total scorers. Cetrena Simmons (second, 11.92m/39-01.25 PR), Shaneice Bufford (sixth, 11.48m/37-08.00 PR) and Alauna Ray (seventh, 11.46m/37-07.25) all finished behind Culmer and scored for SIU.

    The Nassau, Bahamas, native then went on to seal victory in her signature event, the high jump. Culmer, SIU's all-time leader in both the indoor and outdoor high jump, won by clearing a height of 1.68m (5-06.00). Junior Cetrena Simmons scored her second runner-up finish of the day at 1.63m (5-04.25).

    Likewise, the women's shot put was equally overrun by Salukis. Junior Ashley Gaston won on a winning heave of 15.57m (51-01.00), and was followed by scorers Alexus Scott (third, 14.87m/48-09.50), Erin Scott (sixth, 13.19m/43-03.25) and Freya Block (seventh, 12.94m/42-05.50 PR).

    Southern's final two victories came off of career performances from distance runners Krista Menghini (mile) and Mobola Rotibi (800 meter run).

    Menghini won the mile by five seconds at a personal best time of 4:57.27, which now ranks as the sixth-best time in school history. Entering the race, Menghini did not even rank on SIU's top-ten list. This is the second-straight week Menghini has entered SIU's record book, as her 3K time of 9:56.37 at the Indiana Relays on Feb. 1 put her ninth all-time. Once converted for national and conference standards (4:54.36), her mile time currently sits as the third-best in the MVC.

    Menghini wasn't alone in the top-third of finishers in the mile, as she was followed by Sadie Darnell (third, 5:02.80, PR), Alyssa Allison (eighth, 5:08.68) and Eileen Schweiss (11th, 5:15.48).

    Rotibi is also on a hot streak, as today's victory in the 800 meter run is her fourth win of the year and her second straight in the 800. Her personal best winning time of 2:11.28 improves upon her standing in third all-time at SIU and ranks as the best in the Valley this season.

    The Saluki women also received a strong performance in the 60 meter dash, where they had two finals qualifiers. Desiree White (fourth, 7.79) and Amiris Warren (fifth, 7.82) scored in the finals for Southern, and junior Lauren Cheadle missed out on joining them in finals by eight-thousandths of a second at 7.879.

    Saluki track and field will get back on the road next week for the long trek up to Allendale, Mich., for the GVSU Big Meet -- hosted by Grand Valley State on Feb. 14-15.

    Other Scorers/Notable Finishes (Women):
    400 meter dash
    4. Jessica Jump - 58.25 - PR
    6. Tyra Wooten - 59.34 - PR
    8. McKenzie White - 59.75

    800 meter run
    13. Meg Fitzgerald - 2:27.63

    200 meter dash
    7. Nirupama Sunderraj - 25.73
    8. Amiris Warren - 25.83
    10. Desiree White - 26.05
    11. Victoria Archie - 26.08

    3000 meter run
    3. Kelley Gallagher - 10:13.50
    7. Lacey Gibson - 10:20.31
    9. Eileen Schweiss - 10:26.15
    12. Tori Parry - 10:33.46
    15. Melissa McDonald - 10:35.66 Indoor PR

    4x400 meter relay
    2. Jump, Warren, Rotibi, Sunderraj - 3:59.54

    Other Scorers/Notable Finishes (Men):
    Triple Jump
    3. Luke James - 14.16m (46-05.50)

    400 meter dash
    3. Blake Green - 51.18

    800 meter run
    4. Andrew Carmin - 1:59.01

    3000 meter run
    6. Cole Allison - 8:54.20
    7. Kulayifi Haji - 8:55.38

    Men's Team Scores:
    1. Southern Illinois - 188.50
    2. Southeast Missouri - 144.50
    3. Western Illinois - 86
    4. Mississippi Valley State - 46
    5. Bradley - 21
    6. Lipscomb - 20
    7. Western Kentucly - 14
    8. UT Martin - 6
    9. Austin Peay - 5

    Women's Team Scores:
    1. Southern Illinois - 189
    2. Austin Peay - 140
    3. Southeast Missouri - 55
    4. Murray State - 50
    5. Bradley - 25
    6. Western Illinois - 24
    7. Mississippi Valley State - 22
    8. Western Kentucky - 14
    9. Lipscomb - 10
    10. Tennessee Tech - 4
    10. Jackson State - 4