Luke James, 2014 MVC Champion in the triple jump. (Photo Credit by Chris Zoeller)
May 18, 2014
By Tyler Wooten
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Saluki track and field scored two more individual champions and five additional All-MVC honors as the women's team finished third and the men's squad finished fifth at the conclusion of the Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Championships at the Lew Hartzog Track and Field Complex on Sunday.
In a reverse of the pre-championship poll released late last week, the Indiana State men and Wichita State women both claimed MVC team titles after being picked to finish second behind their counterparts. It was a tight race down the stretch in the team score between the two teams, but the Sycamore men pushed ahead to a 164.5-153 advantage over the favorited Shocker men, and the Shocker women held steady at a 160.5-145.5 lead over the favorited Sycamore women at the conclusion of the meet. The Saluki women finished 34 points back at 111 in third place, and the Saluki men finished fifth overall 100 points.
Southern won two individual MVC crowns on Sunday, the first coming from junior Ashley Gaston. The junior native of Centerville, Ill., -- who had earned All-MVC honors in each of her throwing events this weekend as a runner-up in both the hammer throw and shot put -- won her first career Valley title on a personal-best launch of 53.95m (177-00). Gaston bested Loyola's Alison Szykowny by five feet en route to victory, and beat out MVC regular season discus leader Mary Theisen of Indiana State -- who took third. Gaston's newest best -- a new Lew Hartzog Track and Field Complex facility record -- improves upon her ranking at third all-time in SIU history and pushes her up to 24th in the NCAA and 19th in the NCAA West Region in 2014.
Sophomore Alexus Scott also earned points for the Saluki women in the discus in sixth place at 47.56m (156-00). Scott has also scored for Southern in each of her throwing events this weekend as she finished sixth in both the hammer and shot put.
The Saluki men have won the MVC outdoor title in the triple jump in each of the last two seasons, and 2014 turned out to be no different. Junior Luke James, who transferred to SIU just this year from Bethel University in Tennessee, claimed his first career MVC crown in the triple jump at the tail end of the meet. James, a native of Memphis, Tenn., won by one foot on a large personal-best leap of 15.12m (49-07.25) -- a one-foot PR that also broke the facility record and now pushes him up to 40th in the NCAA West Region. After not winning an MVC men's triple jump title in 10 years, Southern has now won four in three years (2012-14 outdoors, 2013 indoors).
Just one day after winning the MVC shot put title in dramatic fashion, sophomore thrower Josh Freeman nearly claimed the discus title in a similar manner Sunday afternoon. Freeman came within two inches of victory at 52.47m (172-02), as Northern Iowa's Matt Schiffer edged him out for victory at 52.52m (172-04). Also scoring in the event were two 2013 All-MVC performers in the discus: Curtis Wideman (fourth, 50.32m/165-01) and TJ Beelen (fifth, 48.53m/159-03).
For his efforts in yesterday's shot put victory, Freeman was awarded the MVC's Most Outstanding Field Athlete -- which is awarded to the MVC champion with the highest national ranking at the close of competition. Freeman's winning shot put distance of 19.86m (65-02.00) currently ranks him ninth in the country and fourth in the NCAA West Region.
Southern also received the women's MVC Elite 18 Award, which was presented to junior Sadie Darnell for her All-MVC performance in the 5000 meter run on Sunday and her outstanding work in the classroom where she has a 4.0 GPA in elementary education. Darnell finished third in the 5K at a new personal-best time of 16:47.41 -- which is now the second-best time in school history. Not only is this her second-consecutive All-MVC finish in the outdoor 5K, but this is also her second consecutive Elite 18 recognition for her performance in the event. Since the award began in the 2010-11 season, only two people have ever repeated as Elite 18 in either indoor or outdoor track: Darnell and former Saluki Lucas Cherry.
Darnell wasn't alone in the 5K, however, as Southern received two superb performances from juniors Kelley Gallagher and Krista Menghini. Gallagher finished fourth at a 19-second PR time of 16:48.26 -- which now ranks third behind Darnell all-time at SIU. And Menghini -- who broke the 3000 meter steeplechase school record by 16 seconds in her runner-up All-MVC performance last night -- finished eighth at a 23-second PR that now ranks fifth all-time at SIU.
Senior Zach Dahleen earned one All-MVC distinction in the 1500 meter run, and narrowly missed another in the 800. Dahleen -- SIU's all-time leader in the 1500 at 3:41.18 -- finished third in the event on Sunday at 3:55.55. As expected, it was a highly competitive race as less than two seconds separated the top-five competitors. The 800 was just as exciting, as less than three tenths of a second separated the top four finishers. Dahleen fell on the lower end of those top-four at 1:50.81 -- missing out on All-MVC honors by nine hundredths.
All told, after three days of competition Southern came away with four MVC event champions, 15 All-MVC honorees and two special awards issued from the Valley.
Up next for track and field are the NCAA West Region First Round Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., on May 29-31. To qualify, student-athletes must rank within the top-48 individually in their events or within the top-24 on a relay. From there, the top-16 finalists at the regional meet qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore., on June 5-8.
Currently, SIU has 14 student-athletes that are in contention to qualify for the regional meet:
Josh Freeman - Shot Put (4th, 19.86m/65-02.00)
Kyle Landon - High Jump (8th, 2.20m/7-02.50)
Curtis Wideman - Hammer Throw (14th, 63.86m/209-06)
Zach Dahleen - 1500 Meter Run (17th, 3:42.55)
Curtis Wideman - Shot Put (32nd, 17.64m/57-10.50)
Luke James - Triple Jump (40th, 15.12m/49-07.25)
Josh Freeman - Discus (41st, 54.17m/177-09)
Kemar Jones - 110 Meter Hurdles (43rd, 14.18)
Krista Menghini - 3000 Meter Steeplechase (11th, 10:12.54)
Ashley Gaston - Shot Put (12th, 16.22m/53-02.75)
Ashley Gaston - Discus (19th, 53.95m/177-00)
Sadie Darnell - 3000 Meter Steeplechase (31st, 10:23.11)
Kenya Culmer - High Jump (40th, 1.75m/5-08.75)
Alexus Scott - Shot Put (44th, 15.03m/49-03.75)
Women's Final Team Scores:
1. Wichita State - 160.50
2. Indiana State - 145.50
3. Southern Illinois - 111
4. Missouri State - 86
5. Northern Iowa - 83
6. Illinois State - 81
7. Loyola - 74
8. Bradley - 44
9. Drake - 33
Men's Final Team Scores:
1. Indiana State - 164.50
2. Wichita State - 153
3. Northern Iowa - 123
4. Loyola - 109
5. Southern Illinois - 100
6. Illinois State - 87
7. Drake - 62.50
8. Bradley - 18
Men's MVC Awards
Men's Most Valuable Athlete (most points scored): Austin Bahner, Wichita State (24)
Men's Most Outstanding Track Athlete: Greggmar Swift, Indiana State
Men's Most Outstanding Field Athlete: Josh Freeman, Southern Illinois
Men's Elite 18 Winner: Rob McCann, Drake (3.94 GPA in Actuarial Science and Mathematics)
Women's MVC Awards
Women's Most Valuable Athlete (most points scored): Paige Knodle, UNI (30.50)
Women's Most Outstanding Track Athlete: Katie Wise, Indiana State
Men's Most Outstanding Field Athlete: Paige Knodle, UNI
Women's Elite 18 Winner: Sadie Darnell, Southern Illinois (4.0 GPA in Elementary Education)
Kyle Landon - High Jump, first place
Josh Freeman - Shot Put, first place
Ashley Gaston - Shot Put, second place
Krista Menghini - 3000 Meter Steeplechase, second place
Cetrena Simmons - High Jump, third place
Curtis Wideman - Shot Put, third place
Ashley Gaston - Discus, first place
Luke James - Triple Jump, first place
Josh Freeman - Discus, second place
Zach Dahleen - 1500 Meter Run, third place
Sadie Darnell - 5000 Meter Run, third place
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
Kenya Culmer - Triple Jump, fourth place
Zach Dahleen - 800 Meter Run, fourth place (missed All-MVC by nine hundredths)
Kelley Gallagher - 5000 Meter Run, fourth place
Kemar Jones - 110 Meter Hurdles, fourth place
Curtis Wideman - Discus, fourth place
Women's 4x100 Meter Relay - Victoria Archie, Desiree White, Amiris Warren, Nirupama Sunderraj, fourth place
TJ Beelen - Discus, fifth place
Oscar Medina - 5000 Meter Run, fifth place
Shaneice Bufford - Triple Jump, sixth place
Dean Jordan - Triple Jump, sixth place
Alexus Scott - Discus, sixth place
Men's 4x100 Meter Relay - William Davis, Franklin Adams, Spencer Jackson, Matthew Benes, sixth place
Matthew Benes - 110 Meter Hurdles, seventh place
Matthew Benes - 100 Meter Dash, seventh place
Women's 4x400 Meter Relay - Jessica Jump, Nirupama Sunderraj, Tyra Wooten, Mobola Rotibi, seventh place
Men's 4x400 Meter Relay - Blake Green, Spencer Jackson, Andrew Carmin, Louis Dotson, seventh place
Franklin Adams - Triple Jump, eighth place
Alex Lietz - Pole Vault, eighth place
Krista Menghini - 5000 Meter Run, eighth place
Mobola Rotibi - 800 Meter Run, eighth place