Josh Freeman's final, winning toss in the 2014 MVC shot put; Photo Credit by Jake Haines
May 17, 2014
By Tyler Wooten
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Saluki track and field won two conference titles and earned six total All-MVC honors on the second day of the Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Championships at the Lew Hartzog Track and Field Complex on Saturday.
Through 17 total events in men's and women's competition combined, the Salukis currently rank second in the women's overall team score and third in the men's -- up from sixth after Day One thanks to two MVC titles. Wichita State still holds a lead in both men's and women's competition after gaining a significant amount of points from the decathlon, heptathlon and both the men's and women's javelin throws. However, the Shocker women currently only lead the Saluki women by 18.5 points heading into the final day on Sunday.
Drama was high in the men's shot put down in the Connie Price-Smith Throws Area on Saturday afternoon, as Saluki sophomore Josh Freeman bested Illinois State fifth-year senior Curtis Jensen on his last two throws. On his fifth throw Freeman took a one-inch lead on Jensen -- who entered competition ranked third nationally -- but Freeman pushed his lead to 10 inches on his sixth and final heave of 19.86m (65-02.00).
"Coming into this championship I knew I was gonna have to do something big to win, and going into rounds five and six I knew I hadn't done it yet," Freeman said. "I went over to Coach (John Smith), who told me to shut my head off and just throw, treat it like practice and just get after it."
His winning distance broke a 22-year-old MVC outdoor championship meet record and also reset his own SIU all-time record by over one foot. Freeman had owned the all-time MVC record earlier this year before Jensen hit his PR of 20.33m (66-08.50). The Redbird senior still had his final throw to topple Freeman, but fouled on his last attempt.
"As soon as I saw the shot come out of Curt's hand I knew right then that he had missed it and I had won," Freeman said. "It just kind of happened in slow motion."
The victory is especially sweet as Freeman missed a golden opportunity to win the MVC indoor title over Jensen back in March.
"(Indoor conference) motivated me a lot, especially with the way it ended and how on my last throw there I thought I had him," Freeman said. "I came up three inches short, and going into this last throw here I was only an inch ahead of him. I knew that Curt's the kind of guy that can come up with a big throw, so I knew I had to do something."
This is the second straight outdoor shot put title for Freeman, a native of Fox River Grove, Ill. His newest PR from Saturday pushed him up to eighth in the NCAA, fourth in the NCAA West Region and 24th overall among professionals and collegians alike in the United States.
Southern gained a big boost in the team rankings in the shot not only from Freeman's 10 championships points, but also from junior Curtis Wideman's All-MVC finish in third place. On his final attempt, Wideman hit 17.40m (57-01.00) to improve upon his standing in third place.
The SIU women also gained an All-MVC honoree in the shot put, as Ashley Gaston was the runner-up in the event at 15.68m (51-05.50) behind champion Mary Theisen of Indiana State. Gaston -- who was also the runner-up in the hammer throw on Friday -- was one of five athletes in the finals to hit their best distance of the day on their final attempt. Also scoring in the event was sophomore Alexus Scott, who topped out at 14.68m (48-02.00).
It was smooth sailing for freshman Kyle Landon in the high jump, as the Chester, Ill., native completed the indoor/outdoor MVC high jump sweep with his second career MVC title on Saturday. Landon had only one miss on the day before clearing his winning height of 2.14m (7-00.25) -- a new facility record. He then took three attempts with the bar at 2.21m (7-03.00), which would have moved him into a tie for ninth in the country.
"(Winning) means a lot," Landon said. "I just come out here to have fun and it feels good to come here as a freshman and win indoors and then come outdoors to also win the high jump."
Junior transfer Cetrena Simmons represented SIU well on the other side of the coin in the women's high jump. Simmons finished third for all-conference honors at 1.68m (5-06.00).
The women's 3000 meter steeplechase proved to be one for the ages as each of the top four times clocked on Saturday broke the MVC championship meet record. Junior Krista Menghini was one of those times in the All-MVC slot in second place at a blistering school-record time of 10:12.54 -- two seconds off of champion Kristen Zillmer of Illinois State. Menghini dismantled Sadie Darnell's school record by 16 seconds and set a 17-second PR in the process. Menghini now ranks 19th in the NCAA and eighth in the NCAA West Region.
Darnell missed out on her second-straight All-MVC finish in the steeple by less than two seconds on Saturday at her fourth-place time of 10:23.11. Darnell's time also would have been the SIU all-time record, MVC meet record and facility record had it not been for the three finishers in front of her.
The third and final day of the MVC Outdoor Championships begins with the women's triple jump and discus at noon on Sunday.
Women's Team Scores (Through nine scored events)
1. Wichita State - 88.50
2. Southern Illinois - 70
3. Indiana State - 68.50
4. Northern Iowa - 44
5. Illinois State - 40
6. Bradley - 19
7. Loyola - 11
8. Missouri State - 10
Men's Team Scores (Through eight scored events)
1. Wichita State - 94
2. Indiana State - 42.50
3. Southern Illinois - 39
4. Illinois State - 38
5. Drake - 35.50
6. Northern Iowa - 31
7. Bradley - 17
8. Loyola - 15
Other Day Two Scorers
Lauren Cheadle - Long Jump, fourth place
Sadie Darnell - 3000 Meter Steeplechase, fourth place
Kenya Culmer - High Jump, tied for fourth
Kyle Landon - Long Jump, fourth place
Juan Carrera - 3000 Meter Steeplechase, sixth place
Alexus Scott - Shot Put, sixth place
Franklin Adams - Long Jump, eighth place