Several Lions ready for nationals

Hallie Hocker

After a disappointingly fourth-place finish in conference at home, the Lions will send eight to the NCAA Division II indoor track and field championships March 10-11 in Boston.

Men’s head track and field coach Tom Rutledge said while the MIAA conference meet went smoothly last weekend, the team results were disappointing. However, Rutledge takes full responsibility for the team. He said in all the time spent in preparation for the meet, not enough time was spent helping the athletes prepare themselves mentally for the challenge.

“Some people achieved a step forward and went above and beyond, but as a whole we were flat,” he said. “This was not one of our better meets.”

He said one of the highlights of the weekend was Marcus Walton’s performance in many events.

Junior Walton is one of the nine Boston-bound Lions and has a ninth-place ranking in the 800-meter run.

“Marcus had an extremely good meet and looks really prime to do well at nationals,” Rutledge said.

After competing in several events at conference, Walton said he hopes it will help just having his only focus at nationals be competing in the 800-meter.

“Not having to worry about coming back, I can go out and give everything I’ve got and hope to drop a couple seconds,” he said.

At conference last weekend, he helped gain more than 20 points for the team. He said it was difficult, more mentally than physically, competing in that many races.

“It wasn’t really about me winning events, but winning points for the team,” Walton said.Walton also took second in the 800-meter run with a time of 1:55.62.

For the third time at the meet, Walton earned second place, this time on the 4×400-meter relay team with freshmen Ryan McPeak, Nick Patrick and junior Kyler Rushing. The team took second with a time of 3:22.12.

Also having outstanding finishes in the conference were Southern’s pole vaulters who placed first through third and fifth.

After several attempts at 17-2.75, seniors Matt Campbell and Kyle Rutledge took first and second, respectively by their marks of 16-06.75.

Campbell is currently tied for first in the nation while Kyle Rutledge holds fourth nationally.

Kyle Rutledge ends his indoor career with the national meet in Boston.

Coming in third place at the conference meet was sophomore Russell Ellis with a vault of 16-02.75. Ellis is No. 7 in the nation in D-II pole vault.

Freshman Seagar Wilson rounded out 26 points for the Lions in the event by clearing 15-01.50 for fifth place.

With the national meet approaching, Campbell said they aren’t going to change anything in their routine.

Five more Lions going to nationals are the distance medley relay team (Rushing, Walton, sophomore Kyle Davis and freshman Dustin Dixon and their alternate freshman Bret Musser). The team is ranked No. 5 in the nation.

Davis said he hopes the team will end up in the top five, earning All-American accolades.

“We have a pretty good shot,” he said.

At the MIAA conference meet, freshmen Ryan McPeak, Derek Wright and sophomores Thane Garnett and Kyle Davis also competed in the DMR and placed second with a time of 10:20.47.

Southern has its first outdoor meet March 16 at the Pittsburg State Invitational.

The Lions first outdoor meet at home will be the MSSU Track and Field Festival March 31 and April 1.