Track, field represent SIU at nationals

By Symone Woolridge

Three Salukis fought hard enough to compete in the NCAA Indoor Championships Friday and Saturday in Albuquerque, N.M.

Junior thrower Sophia Lozano, sophomore thrower Josh Freeman and senior high jumper Kenya Culmer were the most track and field athletes SIU has sent to the NCAA Indoor Championships since 2012.

Lozano was the first to compete Friday, and she finished 13th in weight throw after launching 20.01 meters. Although she didn’t make it to the finals, Lozano was an All-American Second-Team member.


Prior to Friday, Lozano was ranked 16th in the nation. Lozano said before nationals she had been practicing hard and thought she was physically ready to make it to finals.

“I’ve been working on my nerves a lot this season but I just couldn’t get over them this meet,” she said. “I’m not going to blame my performance on that but I didn’t preform like I needed to.”

Although Lozano’s results didn’t go as planned, she has still taken positives out of her nationals experience.

Before her throw Friday, throwing coach John Smith told Lozano she was the underdog, and had to work harder to secure her final position.

“He basically told me I was the one who no one expected to be here so I had to go out there and do my best,” she said. “After the meet he told me I moved up and I deserved to be here.”

Freeman finished in 10th place in the men’s shot put and Culmer finished in 16th in the women’s high jump.

Freeman’s goal was always to make it to nationals; last season he was the outdoor Missouri Valley Conference champion and All-MVC.


Freeman said his performance was a bit disappointing because his shot-put distance marks the third time he has been short by five inches. Freeman threw 18.90 meters.

“By making the state record in high school I was short by five inches, the Pan-Am record I was short by five inches and now I was just five inches short from making the NCAA final,” he said. “Those five inches seem to be bugging me quite a bit.”

As an athlete who rarely gets nervous, Freeman said he felt a feeling he never felt before. The sophomore said his trembling before his throw came as soon as he was preparing to launch.

“It came down to nerves, which is something I really never experienced,” he said. “When I stepped into the ring for my first throw, I felt like a wall hit me and my arms started shaking and I was just really nervous.”

Freeman was forced to cope with his nerves before tossing his next throw. He said now that he has been to nationals and experienced those nerves, it shouldn’t happen again.

Culmer was the final Saluki at nationals and competed in the high jump. She said she had been working hard to make it to nationals ever since she came to SIU and it was an experience she’ll never forget.

“It took me four years to get here but I’m so glad to have made it,” she said. “Just to be able to compete against the top girls in the nation was pressuring but I was definitely happy to represent SIU at such a big meet.”

The senior holds the all-time SIU indoor and outdoor high-jump record, and even broke her own at the March 2 MVC Indoor Championships. During nationals, Culmer said she was within the top eight before dropping to 16th.

“I’m not sure of what happened,” she said. “It wasn’t nerves or me being anxious. I guess it just wasn’t a good day for me, or my day to shine.”

Even though Culmer, Freeman and Lozano competed in different events, each of them had one feeling in common. Although they all were a bit disappointed in their performance, they were grateful to have the opportunity to qualify.

The Salukis have a week off before competing outdoors. Culmer, Freeman, Lozano and the rest of the Salukis will compete at the Bill Cornell Spring Classic at SIU March 28 and March 29.

Symone Woolridge can be reached at [email protected] or ext. 536-3311 ext. 269