Feb. 21, 2013
BEAUMONT – With a new Southland landscape for 2013, the Lamar men’s and women’s track teams will be looking to take advantage of it as the squads head to Norman, Okla., to participate in the Southland Conference Indoor Championships this weekend at the Mosier Indoor Complex on the campus of the University of Oklahoma.
“This is the culmination of the indoor season, and just like for anybody else, this is the most important meet of the year for us,” head coach Trey Clark said. “If you don’t perform well at the conference championship, it makes it seem like a long time before you get that chance again. We’re excited about a lot of the progress some of the kids have made this season, and with the changes in the conference, we’re really not sure what to expect going into this weekend.”
On the men’s side, three of the top five finishers from the 2012 indoor meet have left the conference, leaving Lamar and Stephen F. Austin at the top of the heap. UTSA won the event last year, tabulating 134 points, and SFA was third at 85. The Cardinals were in fourth with 75.
The SFA women will look to run their indoor title streak to five. The schools that finished second, third and fourth a year ago have left the SLC, allowing the opportunity for McNeese (fifth) and Lamar (sixth) to try and bring the Ladyjack dominance to an end.
As a school with a rich cross country history, Lamar will once again look to its arsenal of distance runners for points in the meet. Joe Wade, a former Southland Champion in both the 800 and the mile, will be looking to chase down McNeese State’s Alex Bruce-Littlewood for glory in both the mile and 3,000 meter runs. Bruce-Littlewood holds the top conference marks in both events, ahead of Wade by 2.15 seconds in the mile and 0.12 in the 3K.
Wade’s time of 4:08.95 in the mile last year was the fastest at the indoor championships since 1998.
Sam Stabler will also be gunning for Bruce-Littlewood as the sophomore from Leicester is third in both on the conference’s performance list, 3.18 seconds behind in the mile and 2.34 in the 3,000.
Ryan Creech rounds out the top men’s distance performers, clocking in at 14:54.90 in the 5,000 meter run to sit third in the SLC. McNeese’s David Rooney is atop the list with a time of 14:09.14. Matt Johnsen, who earned All-American honors in cross country in the fall, has yet to compete in the 5K this year, but he’s set to defend his title of a year ago after finishing with a mark of 14:40.74.
The Cards will be looking to parlay their distance success into another distance medley relay championship after winning the event in each of the past two seasons and all but one year since 2007.
For the women, Becky Gough will be looking to build on an outstanding final campaign for LU. The graduate student from Birmingham, England, spent much of the indoor season atop the SLC in the mile run with a time of 4:59.76. She was knocked from the top perch recently by Sam Houston State’s Alyssa Dooley, who completed the race with a time of 4:55.44 earlier this month.
Lady Card runners have been strong in the event historically, as Samantha Walkow and Katrine Vessel took home titles in 2012 and 2011, respectively. Overall an LU runner has won in all but two seasons since 2006.
Gough also ranks high in the 3,000 meter run, sitting third at 10:07.78. SFA’s Lauren Smith, last year’s title-holder, owns the top mark in the event at 9:49.98, and fellow Ladyjack Randi Plentl isn’t far behind at 9:54.80.
“Becky is obviously one to watch for this year” distance coach Darren Gauson said. “She had big performances at McNeese this year, and I think she can get it done again. Joe and Sam are right there in the mile and 3K too. We have a number of quality athletes competing, and hopefully we’ll pick up a distance medley relay championship as well.”
In the 5,000, Nora-Beth Saunders and Kaitlynn Warren rank second and fourth, respectively, at 18:40.57 and 18:59.53. SHSU’s Ana Moreno holds the top spot at 18:20.72.
Aside from the distance events, Ashley Idunoba will also be looking for track success. As the reigning conference champion in the outdoor 200 meter dash, she will be looking to repeat the feat indoors, and in addition to that, she currently ranks fifth in the 60 meter dash with a time of 7.66 seconds. Central Arkansas’ Brarsheyia Simpson carries the top conference mark in the event at 7.54.
“Ashley won second place indoors and first outdoors in the 200 last year, and we’re looking for a big performance out of her,” said Jake Cohen, assistant coach for sprints and jumps. “She’s ready to handle it and she’s a senior. She’s the leader of our group, and we expect her to compete and have a solid meet.”
In the field, a duo of freshmen is set to lead the men as Johnathan Reece ranks second in the high jump and Nick Fyffe is fifth in the triple jump. Reece’s mark of six feet, 8.75 inches trails only Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Roger De La Cruz at seven feet, 0.25 inches, and Fyffe sits two feet and 7.5 inches shy of SHSU’s Charles White with a total of 48 feet, 5.25 inches.
“There’s something to be said for Johnathan and Nick being freshmen, but they have high expectations,” Cohen added. “Our goal is to succeed. We’re really, really young, but we expect some of these freshmen to be big time scorers for us right off the bat.”
Beatrice Douglas will be looking to lead the LU women in the field, and the Silsbee native’s mark of 18 feet, 11.75 inches in the long jump ranks third in the conference. McNeese’s Jasmine Cornelius leads all performers at 19 feet, 2.75 inches.
Overall, the Lamar men will be seeking their first Southland indoor championship since 1985. With six titles, the Cardinals rank first among all active conference members. LU has also produced 53 indoor champions, a mark that also leads the SLC. With the departure of seven-time reigning champion UTSA, a new team will be crowned for the first time since SFA won in 2005.
Seventeen individuals have won conference titles for the Lamar women, and the Lady Cards will be seeking their first-ever team championship. The best showing for LU at the SLC Indoor Championships is fourth place, occurring in both 2006 and 2008.
The Southland Conference Indoor Championships will begin on Friday at 8:30 a.m.