Salukis take 3rd in Gatorade Classic

By Gus Bode

A pair of third-place finishes gives a rough idea of how the SIU track and field team performed at the Gatorade Classic this past weekend.

One blessed with a more intensive look into the team’s recent play would feel more encouraged than your typical third-place finish would allow, said head coach Connie Price-Smith.

“We didn’t compete everyone in every event,” Price-Smith said. “When you don’t have all your kids competing, usually the team scores are down. I was pleased with the events that the kids did compete in. I thought the kids did a good job. They all competed hard.”

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After the Southeast Missouri State-hosted affair, Price-Smith said she believes a certain consistency is taking over her team, one that will carry track and field through the rest of the season along with the rest gained in the early part of the season.

“I expect them to keep on doing what they’re doing and get a little better,” Price-Smith said. “You might see them in events where they don’t get better, but they stay consistent, and that’s because of training adjustments that we do during the week.”

Many of the usual suspects put forth the kind of efforts that were expected of them. The women’s third-place performance was characterized by more strong outings from its throwers. Junior Amarachi Ukabam improved her NCAA regional qualifying marks in three events, winning the shot put, discus and hammer throw. On top of that, she broke the SIU records in the discus, with a throw of 170 feet 11 inches, and the shot put with a 54 foot 4 inch effort.

“We had a lot of good performances in the throwing events,” Price-Smith said. “Megan [Cenkush] had a personal record in the hammer. All of them went in and competed well. They all had close to personal records if they didn’t actually reach them.”

In the discus, Saluki women finished in six of the top nine spots, and in the hammer, five of the top six.

“Each week that they go out, they are going to be much better. It’s very good to see,” Price-Smith said. “They’ve got a really good training group, and they work well together, and they push each other and work very hard.”

The men came through with more notable individual performances than last week. Some positive results from training were showed with wins and regional qualifiers. High jumper Freddy Rule did both in winning the high jump (6 ft 10.75 inch), and so did Antwon Stapleton in the triple jump (49 ft 11.25 inch).

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Sprinters Emmanuel Daux and Anthony Acklin finished one-two for the second week in a row in the 110-meter hurdles with respective times of 14.19 and 14.29, both regional qualifying marks. The men’s throwers impressed as well with both Mark Milleville and Matt Weishaar regionally qualified in the hammer.

“I was pleased,” Price-Smith said. “They came out in these events, and they’re getting better week by week, and that’s all you can ask. They’re putting their training in, and I feel that when they get into better competition, they’ll perform even better.”

Missouri Valley Conference competitor Illinois State won the women’s side by 30 points over the Salukis, the second straight week SIU finished behind Redbirds. ISU won the men’s side as well, 40 points ahead of second place SEMO, and look strong early on in the outdoor season. Price-Smith sees ISU’s performance as typical of what SIU is up against in conference.

“[ISU] is doing a really good job on the women’s side especially,” Price-Smith said. “They’re a well-rounded group. I don’t know if they’ll be the toughest because our conference has a lot of tough teams. They’ll be very competitive with us and with Southwest Missouri State, Indiana State and Wichita State. It’s going to be tough competition.”

Reporter Kyle Means can be reached at [email protected]

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