Senior Kenya Culmer won the MVC title in the high jump, where she broke her own SIU record in the high jump which should qualify her for the national meet.
March 2, 2014
By Tyler Wooten
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Saluki track and field claimed third place in both men's and women's competition at the conclusion of the Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Championships at the UNI-Dome on Sunday.
The Saluki men -- who were picked to finish fourth -- finished third with 95 points, just 10 behind second-place Wichita State. The Saluki women finished 24 points out of second place with 92.50 total meet points. Indiana State swept both the indoor and outdoor titles, repeating their outdoor performance from 2013. This is the third indoor title for the Sycamore men in four seasons, and the first for the Sycamore women since 2001.
"There was always an outside chance we could've won," said SIU head coach Connie Price-Smith. "We could've done better, but i still think we could have finished second. I wasn't extremely disappointed with third place because that means the majority of our athletes competed and competed well."
Southern's final day was highlighted by a Saluki sweep in the men's and women's individual high jump championships. As they have all season, senior Kenya Culmer and freshman Kyle Landon dominated in the high jump for Southern. This is the first indoor SIU high jump sweep since 1998 (the third time ever indoors), and the first in either season since 2002 (the fifth time ever across both indoor and outdoor seasons).
Culmer went out on top in her final attempt at an MVC indoor high jump title. Culmer, who won the outdoor crown her sophomore season in 2012, won on a momentous personal best clearance of 1.83m (6-00.00), which shatters her own SIU indoor high jump record and almost assuredly qualifies her for the national meet.
"At the time (Kenya) was jumping, there was nothing else going on, so everyone was watching her," Price-Smith said. "Not just SIU either, all the teams were watching and clapping along, knowing this could lead to nationals."
She currently stands tied for ninth in the nation, up from a tie for 29th entering the conference meet. Culmer is in a tie for ninth, but will eventually be at least one of the top-14 individuals to qualify once the ties are broken, breaking the top-16 national qualifying barrier. This would be Culmer's first trip to the NCAA Finals in either the indoor or outdoor season. Outdoors she is a three-time NCAA Regional Qualifier.
Landon, who made waves in 2014 by posting the fifth-best high jump mark in SIU history in just his first season as a Saluki at 2.17m (7-01.50), won the MVC title on a winning height of 2.12m (6-11.50). Landon finishes on the outside looking in on the national meet in 29th place nationally, but the indoor season was a superb start to his Saluki career nonetheless.
"(Landon) had a great indoor season for a freshman," Price-Smith said. "When you come in here your freshman year and win, that's saying a lot. It's always impressive when you win a conference title, regardless of what year you are. Same goes for (fellow freshman) Franklin (Adams), who won the long jump yesterday."
Not far behind Landon in the high jump was Kemar Jones, who earned All-MVC in a tie for second-place at a personal best height of 2.09m (6-10.25).
Southern garnered five additional All-MVC performances on Day Two, five of which came from the surging Saluki men that finished 10 points outside of second place.
"The men were a surprise, no doubt," Price Smith said. "Going in we were picked for fourth, and I think that they handled themselves well and competed hard."
Junior transfer Luke James kept the Saluki momentum in the jumps going with a runner-up finish in the triple jump, where he leapt a personal best distance of 14.64m (48-00.50). Also scoring for Southern in the triple jump was yesterday's long jump champion, freshman Franklin Adams (seventh, 13.95m/45-09.25).
The Saluki men earned two all-conference honors in the men's shot put, but Southern missed out on a golden opportunity to take back the indoor shot title for the first time in four years. Illinois State fifth-year senior Curtis Jensen, who owns the nation's third-best throw at 20.29m (66-07.00), only threw 18.81m (61-08.50) for the victory.
Saluki sophomore Josh Freeman entered with the nation's 12th-best throw, a personal best and SIU record heave of 19.43m (63-09.00), but Freeman was only able to muster 18.73m (61-05.50) for his second-straight runner-up finish indoors. Curtis Wideman earned his second all-conference honor of the weekend in third place, at 17.71m (58-01.25), and junior transfer Jeff Stewart contributed as a scorer in seventh place (16.37m/53-08.50).
"(The shot put) was a golden opportunity," Price-Smith said. "Things like that is where we could've pulled some more points from."
Sophomore Alexus Scott earned a runner-up finish of her own in the women's shot put, where she threw 15.25m (50-00.50) for second place behind Indiana State's Mary Theisen -- who owns the third-best shot put mark in the country. Scott was the only Saluki female other than Culmer to earn All-MVC on Day Two.
Southern's final All-MVC honor came on the track, where senior Matthew Benes capped off a very successful season and indoor Saluki career in the hurdles with a third-place finish in the 60 meter hurdles. Benes ran a personal best time of 8.02, which improves on his standing in fourth all-time at SIU. Also scoring for SIU in the event was Kemar Jones, who finished just on the outside of all-conference in fourth place at 8.07 seconds.
Benes narrowly missed doubling his All-MVC honors on Sunday with a fourth-place finish in the 60 meter dash. Benes finished fourth at 6.93, one one-hundredth of a second off earning All-MVC.
Junior Oscar Medina had a similar day on Sunday, with a fourth-place finish in the mile and a fifth-place finish in the 3000 meter run -- the former of which was exactly as close to all-conference status as Benes' attempt in the 60 meter dash. Medina fell one one-hundredth of a second shy of being named All-MVC in the mile at 4:13.37.
Overall, SIU won five individual championships and had 17 student-athletes named to the All-MVC team in two days at UNI.
For those that qualify (top-16 nationally), the NCAA Indoor Championships are March 14-15 in Albuquerque, N.M. All results from this weekend must be turned in by 5 p.m. EST on Monday (March 3), and the final descending-order qualifying list and declarations open at 8 p.m.
As it stands right now, Southern would have three student-athletes qualify for the national meet: Kenya Culmer in the high jump (tied for ninth), Josh Freeman in the shot put (12th place) and Sophia Lozano in the weight throw (16th place).
Franklin Adams - Long Jump (1st)
Lauren Cheadle - Long Jump (1st)
Sadie Darnell - 5000 Meter Run (3rd)
Sophia Lozano - Weight Throw (1st)
Curtis Wideman - Weight Throw (2nd)
Distance Medley Relay - Alyssa Allison, Jessica Jump, Allison Gallo, Mobola Rotibi (2nd)
Scorers (Day One)
Women's Long Jump
5. Sarah Rautio - 5.72m (18-09.25)
Men's 5000 Meter Run
6. Juan Carrera - 14:41.90 PR
Scorers (Day Two)
Women's 60 Meter Dash
7. Lauren Cheadle - 7.70
Women's High Jump
7. Cetrena Simmons - 1.68m (5-06.00) - ties PR
Men's 60 Meter Dash
4. Matthew Benes - 6.93 - missed All-MVC by one one-hundredth of a second
Men's 60 Meter Hurdles
4. Kemar Jones - 8.07
Men's Triple Jump
7. Franklin Adams - 13.95m (45-09.25)
Men's Shot Put
7. Jeff Stewart - 16.37m (53-08.50)
8. Dean Jordan - 4907
Other Notable Finishes (Day One)
Men's 60 Meter Dash
9. LaSteven McKinney - 7.01 - PR, missed qualifying by three-hundredths of a second
Men's 200 Meter Dash
9. Matthew Benes - 22.20 - Missed qualifying by less than one-tenth
Men's Pole Vault
9. Nathan Schuck - 4.80m (15-09.00) PR
Other Notable Finishes (Day Two)
Women's Mile Run
9. Kelley Gallagher - 5:07.24 - Missed scoring by less than one second
Men's Final Team Scores:
1. Indiana State - 151
2. Wichita State - 105
3. Southern Illinois - 95
4. Northern Iowa - 85
5. Illinois State - 81
6. Loyola - 76
7. Drake - 64
Women's Final Team Scores:
1. Indiana State - 130
2. Wichita State - 116.50
3. Southern Illinois - 92.50
4. Loyola - 68
4. Illinois State - 68
6. Northern Iowa - 67
7. Missouri State - 66
8. Bradley - 46
9. Drake - 9