Men win by one point, beat eight-time defending champs

Neil Hombs competes in the 4x400 meter relay. Southern needed a fifth-place showing in the final event to secure the victory by one point.

Neil Hombs competes in the 4×400 meter relay. Southern needed a fifth-place showing in the final event to secure the victory by one point.

Jeremiah Cook

For the first time ever, the Missouri Southern men’s indoor track and field team is conference champion.

The title was won by the men in the last event of the meet, the 4×400 relay. The men picked up a fifth place finish to break Central Missouri State University’s eight-year winning streak.

“If you weren’t there, you missed one of the best exhibitions of desire, heart and athletic ability,” said Tom Rutledge, head coach. “I’ve had 13 championships in my college career and in coaching, and none of them that I can remember were as exciting or as well earned. I can’t remember one that was better than this one.”

To help secure the win, the Lions’ 3,000-meter team took the top three spots, and four of the top six in the event. After it was over, and the men knew they had won, they knew that a long season filled with hard work had been justified.

“There was a big sigh of relief,” said Paul Koehler, junior distance runner. “Everybody had worked pretty hard for it, and coach kept preaching to us about how we could win, and I think we all knew that we had it in us. It was just a matter of going out there and doing it, and once we realized that we had done it, it was just a great relief.”

Although the men didn’t score in any of the sprinting events, they did have the aid of the meet’s co-top point scorer, senior distance runner Brian Lyons, who scored 26 points, won titles in the 3,000 and 5,000-meter events, and broke a school record in the 5K run.

“I just did my part,” Lyons said. “I said last week that I was going to lay it all out on the line at the meet and do the best that I could and take whatever would follow, and I did. I just played my role. The points just came, and I just did what I could do. I was just so happy that the team won, and that I could be a part of it.”

The Lions will be sending three members of their team to compete in the national tournament in Boston. Senior weight thrower Arley Smith, sophomore pole vaulter Matt Campbell and senior pole vaulter Chris Turner will represent Southern in the national championship meet on March 12-13.

But the men know they also have the outdoor season to prepare for as well.

During the outdoor season, the men will have the chance to win the triple crown, meaning the combination of the cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field conference titles, all in one school year. While the men don’t have any time off between the indoor and outdoor seasons, it’s a challenge they are feeling up to.

“It’s outdoor season now,” Lyons said. “It starts the next day, and we have some momentum going into it. We want that triple crown, I know that.”