Seven Returning ALL-MVC Performers will Anchor Young Track and Field Squad
The Missouri State track and field team will rely on seven returning All-Missouri Valley Conference performers to combat a young roster featuring 14 underclassmen, 11 of which are freshmen, as they gear up for the 2010 indoor and outdoor seasons and attempt to add to head coach Ronald Boyce's eight MVC team titles.
With an inexperienced group, coach Boyce will count on his top guns all year.
"We are a little short on depth this year, so what we will need to do is have a couple heavy hitters," Boyce said. "We are going to key in on five or six really good kids and try to really do a lot of damage with a small group."
And the Bears are well-armed to do just that. Terry Phillips will lead the way for both the distance group, and the team, after being a NCAA National Qualifier last season in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, an event in which she set the school record of 10:19.45 at the Drake Relays. The junior also excelled in the one mile and 5,000-meter runs during the indoor season.
Fellow cross country runner and distance specialist Staci Nelson returns as an MVC Indoor Championship record holder, after her distance medley relay team ran an 11:42.69 to win the event last season. During the outdoor season, Nelson will also compete in the 1,500-meter run, the 3,000-meter run and will join Phillips in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Coach Boyce said she has steadily improved all three years, and he expects big things from her in her senior season.
Complementing Phillips and Nelson in the Bears' top tier are All-MVC sprinters Rashida Allen, Yaneika Malcolm and Corteneé Boulard. They made up three-fourths of the 4x400-meter relay team that brought home an outdoor conference championship, with Allen and Malcolm also running with a squad that qualified for the NCAA Regionals. They will be the top sprinters, as Allen excels in the 100- and 200-meter dashes while Malcolm was a standout in the 400-meter dash, finishing second at the outdoor championship last season.
Not resting on last season's performances, Allen has made strides toward becoming one of the conference's elite.
"She has been absolutely on fire over the last year," Boyce said. "Rashida Allen is going to make a really good run for that most improved kind of kid."
Arguably the strongest group of the team will be the field events. The 2010 Bears boast the 2009 MVC Outdoor Championship first- and third-place finishers in the high jump, in seniors, and sisters, Mareneika and Zaleika Goffe. Mareneika's 5-08.75 jump was the fifth-highest in school history, with Zaleika close behind at 5-05.00. Their performances garnered All-MVC recognition. Competing in the high jump, Mareneika was a top-five finisher in seven events during the indoor and outdoor seasons last year.
Back as the Bears' top thrower is sophomore Jeláni Kelly. Kelly enjoyed an impressive freshman season in which she was an NCAA Qualifier in the discus throw, placed fourth in that event at the MVC Outdoor Championship and finished in the top five at three events. She also competed in the shot put, hammer throw and 20-pound weight throw, where her 47-05.00 personal best makes her the third-best performer in school history. Under the tutelage of second-year assistant coach Brent Hobbs, Kelly looks to improve on her inaugural season.
The Bears welcome a talented group of newcomers, with 11 freshmen ready to contribute.
"We've got some freshmen that we think can do some damage for us," Boyce said. "We have Jordan Bond who we think will be pretty good. Maggie Sutor is a pretty good runner and we hope she can do some damage in long distance. Ariel Butzine will be good. Emily Beaver really came along during the course of the cross country season. And I have a freshman who I think will ignite in Kimsue Grant. She is going to be interesting to watch."
Rounding out that deep class are throwers Katelynn Geier and redshirt freshman Scarlett McCall; distance runners Abby Schlater, Ashton Stubbs and Nicole Thate; and multi-event performer Olivia Koehler.
There are also veterans who will push and help compliment the team. Assistant coach Greg Hipp, who oversees distance runners, has Andrea Marshall, Mari-Jean Vance and Stephanie Harres for competition. Kelsey McCowen will compete in the high jump, and sprinters Leneice Rolle, Jodiann Walker, Anda Udris and Shantel Llewellyn will provide much needed depth. Coach Boyce said Llewellyn, a fourth-place finisher in the 100-meter dash at the MVC Outdoor Championship, is one that could surprise.
"It will only be her second semester on campus after arriving late last year, so that added comfort will help her," said Boyce. "I think she is going to make a very positive and immediate impact for us."
The Bears will need every competitor on hand for the long season, which opens Jan. 8 with the Missouri Invitational.
"That is an important meet," Boyce said. "That is territorial for us. It is right near town (in Columbia, Mo.). It is the first meet after the break. The cobwebs are there, but we still like to go up there and make a good presence. That is important for us."
Boyce also looks forward to the Iowa State Classic in Ames, Iowa, Feb. 12-13. The meet will feature all of the Valley teams and will serve as a good barometer for the team as it gears up for the MVC Indoor Championship, Feb. 27-28.
The outdoor season opens Mar. 27 in Fayetteville, Ark., with the Razorback Spring Invitational. The schedule also features the 101st running of the prestigious Drake Relays, Apr. 22-23. The MVC Outdoor Championship in Normal, Ill., will be held May 14-16. For runners who qualify, the NCAA West Regionals will be run in Austin, Texas, May 27-29. The MVC, both indoor and outdoor, will provide stiff competition for the Bears.
"The MVC is a pretty good conference," Boyce said. "What you are going to see in the MVC is depth. You are going to see a lot of good people in a lot of places. You are going to see teams perform well across the board, in all disciplines of track and field. You are going to see a lot of good competition."
In a sport that competes as individuals, Boyce emphasizes the importance of team if the Bears are to achieve their lofty goals.
"If we can't get together and operate as a unit we are going to have some problems. I think the biggest thing for us is going to be that we have to settle down and take care of each other. If we do, we will be fine because we have a lot of good, young kids."
Missouri State will host the 88th annual Aldo Sebben Missouri State Relays on Tuesday, April 27. The event features male and female high school runners from the surrounding areas. The meet will be held at Plaster Sports Complex.