Daily Egyptian

Salukis to improve on successful indoor season

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

The Saluki track and field team transitions indoor success to the outdoor season when they begin Friday.

SIU finished the indoor season with an NCAA champion and a ninth place overall finish from the women’s team.

Coach Connie Price-Smith said the team is typically a better outdoor team and she anticipates a strong outing.

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“I’m excited to see where we can go,” she said. “I can’t wait to get started and see how many people we can get qualified.”

While losing nine events, the outdoor season gains nine others. The hammer throw, discus, 3,000-meter steeplechase and javelin stand out for this year’s Saluki squad.

HAMMER THROW

Hammer throw replaces weight throw for outdoors. Junior DeAnna Price and senior Sophie Lozano finished third and seventh respectively at the NCAA Indoor Championships for weight throw this season.

Price-Smith said although weight throw and hammer throw look the same, the two events are different.

“The turning is very similar,” she said. “The length and the weight change the whole event. Some people train them the same, but they are different.”

Senior Ashley Gaston was the best women’s hammer thrower last year. Price-Smith said she can do the same if her left knee injury does not slow her down.

“There was no doubt last year that she would do as well as she did,” she said. “She puts in a lot of time and I hope we can get the injury resolved so she can pick up where she left off.”

Due to a lack of cartilage, Gaston’s bones are grinding together in her knee and she will not compete this weekend. She hurt the knee in October and faced problems with it all indoor season. 

Gaston threw for 57.06 meters to win the MVC Championship and become an outdoor national qualifier and honorable mention All-American last year.

Senior Curtis Wideman, who is No. 4 all-time at SIU, threw for 64.32 meters at the NCAA West Regional last season en route to becoming an honorable mention All-American by finishing 19th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Throws coach John Smith said Wideman could break J.C. Lambert’s SIU and MVC all-time hammer throw record of 67.21 meters.

“It’s a pretty good record,” Smith said. “But I think [Wideman] can do that.”

DISCUS

Discus is a throwing event that fits SIU’s strong suit from the indoor season. Five of the seven athletes SIU sent to the NCAA Indoor Championship came from the throws team.

Last season Gaston and junior Josh Freeman had the best throws for their teams. Gaston threw for 53.95 meters to win the MVC Championship and moved to No. 3 all-time at SIU and qualify for nationals.

Gaston said she looks forward to returning to the ring for her final season. 

“I have to leave everything on the field,” she said. “Last year, I left a lot and over fall training I’ve gotten stronger. It’s going to be a good season.” 

Freeman threw for 54.17 meters at the Red Wolves Open and is No. 6 all-time at SIU. He finished No. 2 in the MVC last year and was an NCAA Regional Qualifier.

3,000-METER STEEPLECHASE

Senior Krista Menghini returns to the steeplechase for the Salukis after a record-setting 2014 campaign.

Menghini is the fastest steeplechase runner in Saluki women’s history with a time of 10:12.54. She set the record at last year’s Missouri Valley Conference championships, where she finished second. She later placed 17th at the NCAA West Region Preliminaries.

Seniors Sadie Darnell and Kelley Gallagher are also No. 2 and 8 respectively all-time at SIU.

Price-Smith said the three will qualify for the first round of regionals without a doubt.

On the men’s side, senior Juan Carrera ran the best time of last season with a 9:13.36 set at the MVC Championships. Neither Carrera nor any current teammates are in the top-10 all-time at SIU.

JAVELIN

Price-Smith said javelin is unlike any event in the indoor season and many different athletes excel in the javelin.

Last season, sophomore Stephanie Milroy threw for 36.42 meters at the MVC Championships, the longest women’s throw of the year.

Senior Dean Jordan had the men’s longest throw, 56.25 meters, at the Red Wolves Open on April 26.

Price-Smith said sophomore Kurtis Siemsen will only throw the javelin this year. His best throw was 48.18 meters at the Redbird Invitational. He competed in four javelin events last year.

No current Salukis are in the top-10 all-time for men’s or women’s javelin.

Throws Potential

The Salukis also welcome freshman Raven Saunders to her first outdoor collegiate season after winning the NCAA Indoor Championship in shot put.

Price-Smith said discus and shot put will be strong suits for Saunders and the hammer throw will get better with time.

Smith agreed, and said Saunders would make the finals for shot put. He expects her to throw at least 170-feet in the discus.

Smith said he has two goals for his throws teams outdoors. The first, to break his record of 127 points in one meet between the men’s and women’s weight throw, discus and shot put. The second, to sweep every title.

“That’s always difficult to do, but I’d be disappointed if we don’t,” he said. “The two discuses will be the two events that will be the hardest ones to win. But if we get those, we’ll win them all.”

SIU starts the season at the Bill Cornell Spring Classic at 3 p.m. Friday at Lew Hertzog Track and Field Complex. 

Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269. 

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