Players sprint to compete in nationals

Jeremiah Cook

By the time the Missouri Southern women’s outdoor track and field team steps onto the track to compete in the MIAA conference meet, it will have competed in at least nine meets over the course of its season.

The Lions have many things they believe are going their way right now.

“Our distance runners continue to improve in what are difficult conditions for them to run in,” said Patty Vavra, head coach. “If we could get a perfect day here pretty soon, we could really have a chance for them to bring their times down.”

Those conditions are the wind and the rain that accompany the transition from winter to spring in Southwest Missouri.

Southern currently has several members of its squad eligible to compete in the national event.

As of April 18, the Lions have five people qualified in nine events.

Junior distance runner Ashley Caffey has provisional marks in both the 5,000-meter run and the 3,000-meter run and is ranked in the top 25 in the nation in both events.

Junior thrower Danee Jones is ranked seventh in the discus, 14th in the shot put, and 13th in the hammer throw.

Senior distance runner Jen Noelken is 19th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, and sophomore jumper Dionne Prince is ranked seventh in the triple jump. Senior Mary Still rounds out the group, ranked 15th in the 200-meter dash, where she is less than a second behind the top-ranked runner and first in the 400-meter hurdles by almost two seconds.

Going into the last part of their season, the Lions will be modifying their workouts in order to be in better shape for the conference meet.

“This is the time of year when we’ll begin to cut back on the volume of the workouts but increase the intensity and the speed and try to really peak for the conference outdoor meet,” Vavra said.

The Lions compete Saturday in Tulsa at the Tulsa Invitational and Friday through Saturday in the Drake Relays in Des Moines.