Salukis flounder in last-chance meet

By Terrance Peacock

The SIU track and field team continued its successful season with two event wins during the weekend’s last-chance meets, but members failed to qualify additional athletes for the NCAA Indoor National Championships.

Last-chance meets are opportunities before the championships to give track and field athletes one last opportunity to push their personal bests and crack the top-16 in their respective events.

The Salukis traveled to the Arkansas Final Qualifier in Fayetteville, Ark., and Alex Wilson Invitational at Notre Dame to compete for spots at nationals. Senior Kim Fortney, freshman Josh Freeman and sophomores Sophia Lozano and DeAnna Price traveled to Arkansas to improve their personal bests, while senior distance runner and Missouri Valley Conference Champion Zach Dahleen headed to South Bend, Ind., with hopes to improve his mile time.

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Dahleen finished eighth of 33 runners in the mile run with a 4:01.41 final time, but he fell two seconds shy of entering the top-16, where qualifying times ranged from 3:52 to 3:58. Dahleen came off of an impressive indoor MVC championship performance, where he captured his second-straight indoor mile-run title clocked at 4:12.02.

Wisconsin’s sophomore Austin Mudd, the mile’s top finisher, ran a time of 3:58.59, which ranks him 14th in the nation. The country’s top time belongs to 2012 indoor mile national champion, senior Chris O’Hare of Tulsa University, who owns the national collegiate record of 3:52.98. O’Hare’s time was nearly two seconds better than his 2012 record.

Distance coach Matt Sparks said the meet’s goal is to qualify for nationals, so anything less than doing so is a disappointment.

“(Dahleen) came off such a high week before when he was named the MVC Most Valuable Men’s Athlete, so we were really confident going into it, but he fell a little bit short of the goal in qualifying for the national meet,” Sparks said. “He still has outdoor track to go, so we’ve got another season to go out and try to redeem ourselves.”

Fortney won both the women’s shot put and the women’s weight throw during the Arkansas Final Qualifier.

However, Fortney didn’t qualify for nationals as she fell less than two feet shy in the shot put and a half foot short in the weight throw. Her longest shot-put throw was 15.90 meters, and her meet-winning weight throw flew 20.28 meters.

Price took second in the weight throw with a 20.23 meter heave, and Lozano claimed third with a 19.46 meter toss.

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Freeman’s 17.18-meter shot-put toss placed him third among the hopeful athletes.

National meet qualifiers will be officially announced today. The NCAA Indoor Championships will be held Friday and Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark.

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