Six outdoor track, field athletes qualify for California meet

Jeremiah Cook

Three meets into its outdoor season, the Missouri Southern men’s track and field team is feeling confident right where the team wants to be.

Conditioning is one of those areas.

They will be prepared to “peak” at the appropriate time.

The Lions also note there are a few areas they need to work on improving.

“We are having a pretty good outdoor season,” said Tom Rutledge, head coach. “Our strength is in the distance and field events. Our sprinters are looking OK. We look good for 55 meters.”

Rutledge said at the University of Missouri-Columbia meet, the team “could run with anybody for 55 or 60 meters, and then they would pull away from us.”

He said one of the reasons is because the team members have not practiced on the outdoor track yet and need to “stretch our legs on out.”

“We’re struggling a little in our sprints right now,” said Moses Manga, sophomore sprinter. “But we will improve.”

One of the goals of the team is “to keep on improving until the conference meet, and then peak and win the conference,” said Justin Juline, freshman jumper.

The team already has six people qualified to compete in seven events at the national meet on May 27-29 in Pomona, Calif.

“We already have several people qualified,” Rutledge said. “Most of them will get in.”

The list includes Mika Alahaivala, junior javelin thrower, and Matt Campbell, sophomore pole vaulter, both of whom have gained automatic bids to the national meet, meaning they are guaranteed a spot in the competition.

Both are also currently ranked first in the nation in their respective events.

The success of these individuals has given the team more than just public notoriety.

“It builds up our confidence,” Juline said.

“We have several other guys pushing to get into nationals,” Rutledge said. “If you can get 10 people at the national meet, then you have a chance to be ranked in the top four in the nation.”

The Lions have also had several players achieve MIAA player of the week honors.

Campbell, Alahaivala and Brian Lyons, senior distance runner, have been presented with the award this season.

This is the second time Lyons has been honored as player of the week.