Feb. 27, 2014
BIRMINGHAM – It was a dramatic close to the first day at the Southland Indoor Track and Field Championships on Wednesday at Birmingham CrossPlex as Ryan Creech held off a late charge to take home the 5,000 meter crown and both the men’s and women’s distance medley relay teams came from behind to grab the top spot on the medal stand as well.
As a team the Cardinals are ranked fourth in the women’s meet and third in the men’s with point totals of 21 and 27, respectively. Stephen F. Austin holds the lead for the women with 32, and Southeastern Louisiana leads the men with 56.
“I’m very pleased with our performances today, but it’s still the first day,” head coach Trey Clark said. “This was the most important day of the meet because if you have a good first day, you give yourselves a chance to make some noise on day two. The athletes today did a really good job, but we still have unfinished business.”
Creech, a member of LU’s Southland-winning cross country team, put together an impressive wire-to-wire victory in the 5,000, becoming the first LU champion in the event since Matt Johnsen in 2012. The junior out of Cork, Ireland, finished in 14:55.70 and held off a late charge from McNeese State’s Ryan Holroyd, who crossed the finish line .56 seconds later.
“I’m so pleased that I could come out and do what Matty has done,” Creech said of his former teammate. “He’s a guy that has done everything for Lamar, so to have my name next to his means a lot to me because he’s a guy that I look up to. I haven’t always had the best of races indoors, so I’m also happy to do well for the coaches because they put a lot of faith in me over the past few years.”
Freshman Laurie Probert finished seventh in the event with a time of 15:10.04.
In the immediate aftermath of Creech’s race, the women’s distance medley relay team took to the track. Belinda Aguilar
ran the first leg before handing off to Saschelle Slaughter for the 400 leg. After a strong 800 by Kayla de Bondt
, Louise Webb
was tasked with reeling in Central Arkansas over the final 1,600 meters. Luckily for the Lady Cards, Webb was more than up to the task, helping LU complete the race in 11:49.43, missing out on a school record by less than a second.
“It was great to go out there in my first conference meet and win,” Webb said. “We had a really great team atmosphere, and that definitely helped get me across the finish line. With the chanting of ‘L-U’ and the screaming from the rest of the team in the stands, it really got my adrenaline going. I don’t think I could’ve done it without them.”
Following the women, it was the men’s turn for history, and they certainly delivered. The newcomer trio of Sean Guiney, Chance Williams and Aaron Bennett kept LU within arm’s reach after the first three legs, and Sam Stabler, the league’s best miler, reeled in and ultimately comfortably passed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Phillip Baar in the 1,600 leg to win the event with a school-record time of 9:54.13. It also smashed an 18-year old conference record by five seconds and set a new facility mark by three.
LU has now won a combined 16 Southland titles in the distance medley relay.
Stabler was also another part of history earlier in the day, running the mile in a conference championship record 4:03.14, easily qualifying for Thursday’s final, where he’ll be joined by teammates Mike Kershaw and Sean Chalmers, who posted times of 4:16.83 and 4:19.00, respectively.
“I knew what the conference record was coming in, and it was definitely one of my goals,” Stabler revealed. “I wanted to go sub-four, but it just wasn’t there for me. I felt like I had that gear in the DMR, and it felt a lot easier. I’m very confident for tomorrow, and I’m hoping I can run well for the team in both the mile and the 3K.”
Leigh Lattimore also got on the medal stand on Wednesday night, finishing third in the 5,000 meter run with a time of 17:12.51, which puts her at third on the LU all-time performance list. Claire Arnold finished fourth in the event, clocking in at 17:43.26.
Johnathon Reece narrowly missed out on a medal, ending fourth in the high jump, clearing six feet, 6.75 inches.
Seven Cards qualified for finals on Thursday, beginning with 60 meter hurdlers Dominique Taylor and Le’Trey Burton. Taylor made it for the women, improving her personal best time to 8.83 seconds, which ranks second in school history. Burton also set a personal-best, finishing sixth with a time of 8.44.
Trevon Davis and Slaughter also had strong 400 meter heats. Davis finished third for the men with a time of 48.54 seconds, and Slaughter, who ended fourth in the event last season, was fifth among the women at 56.16.
Webb and de Bondt each secured a spot in the final of their respective races. Webb completed the 800 in 2:16.05, and de Bondt posted a time of 4:59.96 in the mile. Both were ranked third among qualifiers.
Aaron Bennett, winner of all three 800 races in which he’s participated in this season, qualified sixth with a time of 1:57.65.
The final day at the Southland Indoor Track and Field Championships will begin Thursday morning at Birmingham CrossPlex.