Junior Ashley Gaston earned Honorable Mention All-American distinction in both the discus (22nd place) and shot put (21st place).
June 14, 2014
By Tyler Wooten
EUGENE, Ore. -- Saluki junior Ashley Gaston and sophomore Alexus Scott competed in the women's shot put on the final day of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field on Saturday, where they finished in 21st and 23rd place, respectfully.
Gaston began the day for SIU in the first flight of the shot. The Centreville, Ill., junior fouled her first two throws before hitting 15.29m (50-02.00) on her third and final attempt -- which, sealed her position in 21st place overall. Scott, a sophomore native of Greenbelt, Md., was up next in the second flight and peaked on her second attempt of 14.86m (48-09.00) to take 23rd place. Both Salukis earn Honorable Mention All-American honors for being one of the 24 national finalists in Eugene this week.
Today wraps up a strong junior outing for Gaston, who won the 2014 Outdoor MVC discus title and was also the MVC runner-up in both the hammer throw and shot put. Gaston qualified for the regional meet in both the discus and shot put, and was able to punch her ticket to Eugene in both those events as well. She will leave Eugene with two Honorable Mention awards, as she earned one in the discus on Thursday by finishing in 22nd place. At the end of her junior season, she ranks third all-time in the discus (53.95m/177-00), fifth in the outdoor shot (16.22m/53-02.75) and sixth in the indoor shot (15.94m/52-03.75).
The Salukis will leave Eugene with five Honorable Mention honors and one First-Team award from freshman Kyle Landon, who finished tied for third in the nation in the high jump on Friday night. Landon's performance continues SIU head coach Connie Price-Smith's streak of having at least one male or female First-Team selection outdoors since she took over the combined program in 2004-05, a feat she has accomplished in nine of her 10 seasons at the helm of the combined program (SIU had no outdoor All-Americans in 2009). Landon's performance also pushed the Saluki men to a tie for 42nd place overall as a team with 5.5 meet points -- the highest men's team finish outdoors since 2004 (11th).
"As expected, the NCAA Championship meet was a great meet to watch, and to have athletes competing in it made it even better," Price-Smith said. "Kyle had a very good meet but the other four athletes did not fare as well as they would have hoped. But, it is great experience for them for the future."
Speaking of the future, Saluki track and field's is looking brighter by the second. Not only did Southern have two All-Americans sit out this season due to injury (Bradley Sauer and DeAnna Price), but the Salukis are bringing in some of the best talent in the country like all-time high school shot put record holder Raven Saunders (Charleston, S.C./Burke H.S.), No. 1-ranked junior college pole vaulter Jonathan Walsh (Lincoln College) and Illinois state pole vault record holder Lindsey Murray (Harrisburg, Ill./Harrisburg H.S.) -- among several other talented incoming freshmen. That said, this year's group accomplished quite a bit on its own by tallying six school records, nine MVC Champions, 13 NCAA Regional Qualifiers outdoors and eight national qualifiers across both the indoor and outdoors seasons.
"I am looking forward to next year and I'm excited about the returners and the newcomers to our roster," Price-Smith said. "I hope to have an even bigger group here next year."
Men's Team Scores (out of 73):
T-42. Southern Illinois - 5.5 points
First Team All-Americans (Top-Eight)
Kyle Landon - High Jump, T-3rd place
Honorable Mention All-Americans (Places 17-24)
Curtis Wideman - Hammer Throw, 19th place
Josh Freeman - Shot Put, 21st place
Ashley Gaston - Shot Put, 21st place
Ashley Gaston - Discus, 22nd place
Alexus Scott - Shot Put, 23rd place