Southern men compete in new event, rank eighth nationally in DMR

“It’s nice to know we’re always a contender, not a pretender,” said Tom Rutledge, head men’s track and field coach.

At the University of Arkansas Jan. 21-22, the men’s team faced competition from Division I teams like Louisiana State University, Texas A&M University, Oklahoma State University and the UA.

“There was very good competition,” Rutledge said.

This is the first time this year the Lions competed against D-I schools, and Rutledge considered the experience beneficial. He also said those meets raise the team’s level of expectation.

“It’s always a good meet when you could rise to the occasion,” Rutledge said. “A lot of D-I schools can’t compete with us. We have good facilities and good athletes. We hold our own.”

Several team members did rise to the occasion as Southern came home with two provisional marks and one new University record.

“The pole vaulters pretty much dominated the meet,” Rutledge said.

Four of the vaulters placed in the top seven. Matt Campbell, junior, is currently ranked first in the nation as senior pole vaulter Kyle Rutledge is ranked seventh.

Rutledge earned fourth place and a provisional with a vault of 15-9.

Campbell tied for first in the pole vault and lost a jump off to finish second with a vault of 16-4 3/4.

“I’m getting very close to accomplishing my goal,” Campbell said. “I’m just trying to work the different types of poles to get the right height I’m aiming for.”

Even though, he lost first place in a jump off, Campbell said he’s not disappointed at his performance.

“The jump off was a good test of mental toughness and fatigue,” he said. “It’s like going through early prep for anything that might happen at nationals. It was a good tool.”

As for his goals this season, Campbell said he has his eyes on the University record.

“I’d love to go 17-2,” he said.

Campbell’s current personal record is 17-1.

Meanwhile, in weight throw, Mike Hines, junior thrower, placed third with a throw of 49-7 1/4. In the shot put, Hines threw 52, which was six inches shy of the University record, to gain sixth place.

Freshman thrower Nick Vince placed seventh with a throw of 47-8 1/2.

“I didn’t do too bad,” Vince said. “I could’ve done better.”

His goal for the season is to improve his weight throw to more than 40 feet.

“I’m looking forward to being in the right frame of mind and keeping my technique and form together,” Vince said. “Hopefully I’ll throw far.”

Elsewhere in field events, junior Kyler Rushing placed fourth in the high jump with a leap 6- 6 3/4.

In the running events, the mile relay team broke the University record with a time of 3:22.62. The team consists of Moses Manga; Kyler Rushing, both juniors; David Downs, freshman, and Neil Hombs, senior.

The distance medley relay placed seventh and received a provisional with a time of 10:26.15. The DMR is a new event in Division II competition.

Currently, Southern is ranked eighth nationally in the DMR.

Members of the relay include: Lucas Plocher, junior; Kyle Davis, freshman; Neil Hombs and Craig Rhoads, both seniors.

“We had to run fast, otherwise we’d be embarrassed,” Rutledge said. “We did run fast; we weren’t embarrassed.”

Paul Koehler placed sixth in the 5,000-meter run in 15:11.58.

Craig Rhoads finished seventh in 15:13.75.

Freshman Kyle Davis finished ninth in the 3,000-meter race with 8:51.58.

This weekend, the distance runners will be taking a break and the sprinters, jumpers and throwers will be heading to the University of Kansas for more D-I competition.

Rutledge said it is another working meet.

He hopes to keep the men focused.

“Our goal is to work towards conference and nationals,” he said.

He said the KU meet is just like any other meet.

“Some [of the athletes] compete head to head with, if not better than, them [D-I competitors],” Rutledge said. “We can’t have depth, but we can run head to head with them.”