Men’s, women’s track to hit nationals

Great things await six of Southern’s track and field athletes in Boston.

Four men and two women left March 9 to see how far their hard work would take them in the NCAA-Division II national indoor track meet.

Those competing are: seniors Danee Jones, weight throw, Michael Stewart, triple jump; juniors Kyle Rutledge and Matt Campbell, pole vault, Mike Hines, shot put; and freshman Jessica Selby, shot put.

Campbell has a second-place national ranking with a vault of 17-1 3/4.

In preparation for the big meet, Campbell said he and teammate Kyle Rutledge, have been jumping every other day.

“In between, I do a lot of visualization of doing that perfect jump at nationals,” Campbell said.

He said they also worked on speed and kept up with their weight training when they would’ve normally taken a break.

“It’s been going pretty good in practice,” Campbell said. “We both [Campbell and Kyle Rutledge] have the confidence that we’ll do well at nationals.”

Campbell thinks a vault of 17-1 will win the national championship, but he has his sights set on clearing 17-3.

He also said he’s had some good attempts in practice without the bigger poles he has been using.

While he said he got a little off focus going to nationals last year, this year he is focusing on the meet.

“I’ve been resting up and focusing on what I have to get done,” said Kyle Rutledge, who is ranked seventh in the pole vault with 16-3 1/4.

While he has been doing a lot of technical drills, he said he’s mostly been resting.

Kyle Rutledge said his goal is to be in the top five.

He believes he and Campbell can accomplish this.

“The indoor season was kind of up and down,” he said. “There were some really good points and some really bad points. Overall, it was good.”

With the exception of Kyle Rutledge, Campbell, Stewart and Hines, the rest of the team ended its outdoor season with a second place finish at the MIAA conference meet.

Kyle Rutledge said the team had a really good performance at conference, and he couldn’t have been any more proud of them right now.

He also said the team has been really supportive of the men who aren’t finished with the indoor season yet.

“My teammates have really helped out and supported me, Matt, Mike [Stewart] and Mike [Hines],” Rutledge said.

Hines is focused on competing in the shot put. He is ranked ninth with a throw of 55-1 1/2.

“The strength level is there to throw what I know I can throw,” he said. “It’s just putting it together.”

Hines has been increasing his intensity in practice and in the weight room. He’s looking forward to getting a big throw at nationals and doing the best he can do.

“The main thing I’m anxious about is competing,” he said.

For Stewart, this is his first time to compete in the national indoor meet. He is ranked fifth in the nation with a triple jump of 48-11 1/2. His focus has been on staying healthy.

“I haven’t jumped my best yet this year,” he said. “If I jump my best, I should push for the national championship. I could be wrong, but that’s what I think.”

He said the season has been pretty good so far, and he’s proud of the team’s performance. Stewart is excited to go to the national meet.

“It’s been a few years coming,” he said. “I’ve been looking forward to this one.”

Jones, will be representing the women’s team. This will be the fourth straight time she’ll be making the trip to the national meet. Jones is ranked second in the weight throw with a sling of 61-9 3/4.

She tried to use her time in between the conference and national meets to catch up in her classes. She didn’t want to have anything else to worry about so she could think about nationals.

“I’m going there to compete first,” Jones said.

She said they can enjoy themselves after they compete.

Also representing the Lions, Selby will be competing in the shot put.

She is ranked ninth nationally with a throw of 46-1 1/2.

“I’m excited to get one more chance to throw farther,” Selby said.

Walker would be competing in the 800-meter at the meet in Boston, but she is recovering from an injury. She is ranked 12th in the nation with a time of 2:14.58.

She received this qualifying time the first time she ran the 800-meter in college. She was 0.66 seconds away from breaking the University record.

Overall, the men and women are trying to keep focused on their performance at the meet and not the trip to Boston.

“I just want them to have a good time and perform to the best of their ability,” said Tom Rutledge, head men’s track and field coach.

He said the goal is to try and keep their focus intact and compete well.

“Getting there is tough enough,” he said. “Getting there and doing it again is even tougher.”

He said they always come home with something, like an All-American award.

“To win All-American is a very coveted award,” Rutledge said. “There are no weak people at the national championship.”