The men’s track and field team got off to a fast start at the Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Championship, and kept it up during the weekend as it left with a first-place win.
The MVC championship marks the 12th in program history and the first in 20 years for the men’s team since its 1992 win. The Saluki men won the championship, which was held Saturday and Sunday at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, with a two-day total of 142.5 points.
The women’s track and field team placed fourth with 88.5 points and several stand-out performers.
It was coach Connie Price-Smith’s first MVC title, and in addition, she won the MVC Men’s Coach of the Year Award.
During the first day of the tournament, the men’s team captured a lead over projected top seed Indiana State University by collecting several top finishes. The Salukis earned a first-place finish from senior Cody Doerflein in the pole vault when he cleared 17.04.50. Doerflien recorded the same height in 2010, which ranked him third all-time in SIU history.
The SIU men’s distance medley relay team claimed the gold with a time of 10:04.18.
Junior T.J. Heffernan anchored the winning relay team and was followed by junior Jeremy Bankston, freshman Oscar Medina, junior Zach Dahleen, senior Stephen Arvanis, junior Jawon Smith and junior Lucas Cherry.
Two-time conference champion thrower senior J.C. Lambert added a third conference weight throw championship to his career resume when he won with a throw of 70-09.25. Lambert is the second MVC player ever to win three conference titles.
Lambert said consistent training helped him succeed.
“I just kept doing what I have been doing all year with the weight. Even though I lifted hard and trained through this meet, I was experienced enough to win,” he said.
Other top men throwers from the first day were freshman Bradley Sauer, who placed fifth with a throw of 62-06, and senior Collin Otto, who placed 10th with a time of 58-01.75.
Senior Malaikah Love led the Saluki women by starting the first day with a win in the pentathlon, with 4,092 points. That point total ranks Love fourth in the nation. The Carbondale native also won the long jump (20-02.5) and shot put (45-03), and placed second in the 60-meter hurdles.
Love also placed third in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:24.4 and seventh in the high jump when she cleared 5-00.5. Love said her drive to succeed is what allows her to excel at different events.
“The key is discipline, effort and determination. You have to be tough, unwilling to let physical fatigue or mental exhaustion overpower the completion of the task at hand,” Love said. “I’ve tapped into elements of exhaustion and pain that people would never allow themselves to feel, and it’s truly a skill you have to learn.”
Top women’s thrower, senior Jeneva McCall, recorded a distance of 76-09 in the weight throw to clinch her third straight conference title. Senior Rickael Roach finished fourth with a 64-04.5 throw, while freshman DeAnna Price recorded a personal best throw of 64-04.5 to place fifth.
The Saluki men were able to hold their lead for the second day of competition. Indiana State trailed SIU closely during the championships but placed second overall with a total of 137 points. The men used several top finishes to rack up points needed to claim the championship.
Junior Ryan Sidwell placed fourth overall for the Salukis, with a total of 5,258 points, as he competed in the heptathlon events. Sidwell’s best finish came in the 1,000-meter run when he placed second with a time of 2:43.20. Sidwell also had a third-place finish in the pole vault when he cleared a height of 15-09. He placed fourth in the 60-meter dash and in the high jump. He rounded out the heptathlon with a fifth-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles, ninth in the shot put and 11th in the long jump.
Junior Zach Dahleen claimed the MVC Championship title in the one-mile run. The 5000-meter run was a big point-getter for the Saluki men, as SIU accounted for four of the top six runners.
Senior Kendrick Branch placed seventh in the high jump with a 6-05.50 jump, while senior Maxim Bakana placed fifth in the triple jump with a jump of 48-01.75.
The day after Lambert earned his third-consecutive conference title in the weight throw, he finished third overall in the shot put with a throw of 58-00.5. Junior Brian Cooper finished in sixth place, with a throw of 54-08.25, to add to the Salukis’ final total.
For the women, Love continued her strong performance and won the triple jump with a jump of 41-03.75. Junior Kenya Culmer placed second in the high jump with a height of 5-08.5.
McCall ended her indoor season with a win in the shot put, with a throw of 56-09.5, which made her a three-time MVC champion in the event. Junior Kim Fortney placed fifth in the shot put with a throw of 50-04.5.
Statistics provided by Saluki Athletics.