On the right path to conference meet

Missouri Southern track athletes warm up at practice Feb. 20 in preparation for the annual MIAA conference meet.

Missouri Southern track athletes warm up at practice Feb. 20 in preparation for the annual MIAA conference meet.

Hallie Hocker

In hopes of preparing for conference, Southern headed to the University of Central Missouri to compete last weekend.

“It was a good tune-up meet for conference,” said women’s head track and field coach Patty Vavra. “We had much improved performances.”

Newcomer to the women’s track program, Ashley Birch, a Lion’s basketball athlete, broke the 60-M dash record this weekend. Birch flew through in to take second in the event with 7.80.

The team also saw sophomore Jessica Self earn a provisional mark in the weight throw. Self threw 52-04.75 for third place.

“It was unexpected,” she said. “Usually people’s marks go down in finals and not up. It was a great surprise.”

The men throwers also had marked improvements.

“The throwers did a great job,” said men’s head track and field coach Tom Rutledge. “Several got a PR [personal record] in the shot put.”

Sophomore Nick Vince broke the 50-foot barrier in the event. Vince threw 50-08.00 for fifth place. Freshman Eric Bearden broke 48-feet with 48-07.50 for seventh.

Rutledge is also proud of senior Marcus Walton who traveled to the University of Nebraska to compete with the Distance Medley Relay (DMR).

“Marcus Walton is the most unselfish kid I’ve got,” Rutledge said.

He said Walton, who was All-American last year in the 800-M open, has repeatedly chosen to compete in the DMR more than the 800-M race.

He’s an awesome kid,” Rutledge said. “He’s a senior, through and through.”

Walton also competed at the national level with Southern’s DMR team last year. However, with a time of 10:04.02, the team now sits fourteenth. The top ten relays compete at nationals.

“We just haven’t gotten our 1200-m or our miler together at the same time,” Rutledge said.

He said the team will run the DMR at MIAA conference this weekend at the University of Central Missouri.

“It will be hard to qualify on that track because the curves are so tight,” he said.

The MIAA is also considered one of the most competitive D-II conferences in the nation.

“We fill a lot of areas in the national meet from our conference every year,” he said.

Nevertheless, Vavra and Rutledge expect their athletes will compete hard.

“We’re going to have to run a perfect meet,” Rutledge said. “It’s as simple as that. Central and Northwest are powerful and have a lot of depth.”

Rutledge said the team will take their fair share of points.

“We’ve got some great kids and they’ll give everything they can because I know they want to win,” Rutledge said.

Vavra said the conference meet is only a little different than any other meet.

“This time, the meet is more about team pride,” she said.