A needed boost at the Booster

By Gus Bode

Seven personal records set, an automatic NCAA Championship bid and a farewell to a key member of the coaching staff made for a rare mix of emotions at the Booster Invitational last weekend.

The Salukis set the tone for success Friday with impressive showings by the women throwers. Junior Amarachi Ukabam continued to put dents in the floor of the Recreation Center track with record-breaking throws.

The Ohio State transfer won the weight throw with a toss of 69 feet, simultaneously breaking the Missouri Valley Conference record she set in December and securing a spot in the NCAA Indoor Championships.


“I am happy with where I am at right now,” Ukabam said.

SIU’s weight throwers dominated the event taking, the top three places with senior Venisha Williams taking second and freshman Brittany Riley placing third.

Ukabam carried her momentum into Saturday winning the shot put with a throw of 54 feet, one inch.

Her teammates followed with some impressive performances in sprints, hurdles, and jumps.

Arkansas State, Arkansas-Little Rock, Alabama-Birmingham, Memphis and Tennessee State all saw wins and placed consistently high, but none managed to deal with SIU in some key events.

The women’s 4×400 relay team of Marquita Vines, April Heath, Kelsey Toussaint and Sherlenia Green made good on the promise made by Vines before the Booster to “really blaze” by winning with a time of 3 minutes and 50.53 seconds. Toussaint and Green also finished second and third in the 200-meter dash.

Senior Ty-Nica Davis won the 800-meter (2:17.65) with Katie Ringlestein coming in third. High jumper Katie Fessler finished second in her event with a jump of five feet, 3.75 inches and Sarah Rinker finished second in the mile (5:04.04).


The men saw senior Fred Rule live up to his name in the high jump with a personal best of 7 feet, 0.25 inches, leaving Rule just shy of the provisional qualifying standard.

The Salukis placed high in the 200-yard dash and the mile with juniors Joe Byrne and Eli Baker taking the top two spots in the mile, while freshman Antoine Jennings finished second behind senior Felix Anderson in the 200.

Through it all, the reality of assistant coach Lawrence Johnson’s final meet with SIU put a bitter end to the proceedings.

“These kids work hard and are successful and are going to be successful,” said Johnson, who is leaving to take a similar position at Virginia Tech. “They have a great coaching staff that’s going to rally around them and get them where they want to go.”

When asked about Johnson’s departure, Anderson showed cool professionalism.

“It surprised me a little bit,” Anderson said. “But not really.”

Anderson added, “I promised myself that I would come back this season and run fast, and God willing that’s what I plan on doing.”

Reporter Steve Caulkins contributed to this story

Reporter Kyle Means can be reached at [email protected]