Three Salukis to represent women’s track at nationals

By Gus Bode

For women’s track and field star Noa Beitler, it has been a season of hard work and sacrifice as she prepares for her first NCAA track and field championship starting Wednesday.

Beitler, who was the Missouri Valley Conference champion in both the 800 and 1,500-meter races, was awarded an at-large bid to the meet, which will take place in Sacramento, Calif.

“I worked really hard this year, and I really believe that I can do well,” said Beitler, who will only compete in the 800. “I’m excited that I made it.”

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Southwest Missouri State won the women’s competition of the MVC championships. SIU placed fifth behind Northern Iowa, Indiana State and Wichita State.

Two other Saluki athletes, junior hurdler Korto Dunbar and senior high jumper Latrice Gray, will also make the trip. Dunbar will compete in the 100m-hurdle event, and Gray will make her second appearance at the national championship in three years.

“It’s been a good, steady year,” said Connie Price-Smith, women’s track and field head coach. “We didn’t have a lot of numbers, but we had a lot of quality.”

The women’s team also has signed 25 new recruits for next season. Many of the recruits, including two-time all-state cross country runner Katie Birn, are expected to immediately help the team.

“Next year is going to be completely different from this past year,” Price-Smith said. “Almost everybody that we recruited will come in and play an important role.”

For right now, the focus is on Sacramento and performing well among the nation’s best.

“The competition is going to be very, very tough,” Beitler said. “I didn’t [know] the NCAA had so many girls who run so well.”

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As coach, Price-Smith does not like to set expectations for her players. She does want to see a solid all-around effort at each track meet.

“I expect them to come out and give everything that they have every time that they’re out there,” Price-Smith said. “I let the performances and where we place take care of itself.”

Both Dunbar and Beitler will begin the preliminary round of competition on Wednesday. If they advance, semifinals will take place on Thursday with the finals occurring on Saturday. Gray will compete on Thursday with the finals also taking place on Saturday.

Reporter Pete Spitler can be reached at [email protected]

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