Men’s track seizes MIAA title

You can’t get much better than a perfect meet. Southern’s men had a perfect meet and then some this last weekend in an upset at the MIAA Conference track and field championships.

“Southern should be proud of them. Joplin should be proud of them,” men’s head track and field coach Tom Rutledge said. “They weren’t supposed to win this meet.”

While he knows all coaches say “it was a team effort,” Rutledge firmly believes this conference win was a team effort.

“No one individual scored more than 12 points,” he said. “We had a balanced attack and scored where we had to score.”

Rutledge said the success all snowballed, starting with freshman Chris Brown’s win in the high jump. Brown cleared 6-11.50 for the win and secured a spot in the national meet.

“I thought I did exceptionally well,” Brown said. “It was the clearest set of jumps I had all year. It got me pumped up. My adrenaline was going, especially when I got up to the bigger heights.”

Brown was really happy his family was there to watch him compete. He said they were very proud of him. It is not often a freshman qualifies for nationals.

“Being able to go [to nationals] and compete with the big people feels great because it feels like I’m accomplishing my goals,” Brown said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Another big win came from sophomore Seager Wilson who took the pole vault title by clearing 16-01.75. Wilson had been waiting to clear that height all year.

“I had confidence going into it,” he said. “It was just a matter of putting it all together.”

He said he was a lot more focused than he had been and new after a good warm-up that something good was going to happen.

Overall, Rutledge was really impressed with the team’s effort.

“I told them to win with talent or with effort, and they did both,” Rutledge said.

Freshman Ryan McPeak broke the 400-meters record with a time of 49.14.

Rutledge said it wasn’t easy winning the conference meet.

“Central was breathing down our neck and we put them down.

Then Pitt was breathing down our neck,” Rutledge said. “We had enemies everywhere.”

After it was all said and done though, Rutledge said one of the biggest compliments he received was from the coaches from the other teams.

“I expected us to be up there and have a shot at it,” said student assistant Neil Hombs. “I expected us to be in contention.”

Hombs said he knew they had the win when Southern was up by two points going into the 4×400-meters race.

“They couldn’t catch up no matter how many they scored,” Hombs said. “They had a couple not score where they wanted to.”