Championship Time for Track and Field Bears
SPRINGFIELD - The buildup of the track and field Bears' regular season comes to a head with this weekend's Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Championships in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Feb. 26-27.
For the Bears it will be a chance to showcase their underclassmen-laden squad, which is intent on improving on last season's uncharacteristic fifth-place showing. It was only the fourth time in 14 years under Director of Track and Field/Cross Country Ronald Boyce that the Bears finished outside of the top three at the Indoor Championships.
"We are taking a young squad in and this is our first real test," Boyce said. "I want to see some competition because this squad will be with us for a very long time and it makes a big difference. I think we will have some fun with what we do and how we get it done, but we want to walk away from there feeling accomplished, knowing we will be set for quite a few years."
Of the Bears 37 athletes, 29 are freshmen or sophomores. It will be the first taste of the MVC Indoor Championships for 32 competitors. The young group is talented and has shown some promise this season. Underclassmen hold the top performances in 10 of the Bears' 15 events.
Sophomore Kimsue Grant (Arlington, Va.) leads the way with her triple jump prowess. Grant is second in The Valley in the event entering this weekend with a personal best of 40-05.50 feet. She is the Bears' lone returning All-MVC Indoor performer after earning the distinction in the triple jump at the 2010 meet.
Fellow sophomore, and jumper, Cheyenne Stewart (Christ Church, Barbados) will be the other returning All-MVC performer competing at this weekend's Championships. Stewart's high jump at the 2010 outdoor meet earned her the honor, and her 2011 performance in the event has earned her high expectations for the Championships. Her regular season mark of 5-07.00 feet is tied for third in The Valley and forecasts her for a podium place.
The Bears may make their mark in the jumps. Jordan Bond (So., Normal, Ill.), Ahshane Johnson (Fr., Moberly, Mo.) and Gemma Smith (Fr., Cannock, England) combine with Grant to give the Bears four of the top eight triple jumpers. The trio has the fifth-, sixth- and eighth-best marks, respectively.
In the sprints, Alyx Dull (Fr., Clinton, Mo.) and Pernell Joseph (Fr., Vieux Fort, St. Lucia) are sixth in The Valley in the 60-meter dash, both running a 7.77-second time during the regular season. Freshman Ariel Butzine (Lake Villa, Ill.) also has a sixth-place standing on her resume, this one in the 800-meter (2:13.01). The personal best at the Tyson Invitational put Butzine in the MSU record books as the fifth all-time performer in the event. It was the fastest time by a Bear since Leander Ernest's record-setting 2:07.14 in 2009.
Sophomore Emily Beaver (Diamond, Mo.) will pace the distance group. Beaver is coming off one of her finest performances at MSU, when she finished the 3,000-meter run in a personal best 9:56.20 minutes at the Tyson Invitational. Fellow distance runner Theresa Brokaw (Sr., Stronghurst, Ill.) could threaten the front of the pack as she and Beaver will compete in both the 3,000-meter and 5,000-meter runs.
The Bears will look to prove the prognosticators wrong, as the pre-championships poll has the Bears slated to finish sixth in the eight-team field. The Bears garnered 26 points, only one behind fifth-place UNI. Defending champion Wichita State was picked to repeat.
Saturday's events will begin with the Pentathlon at 9:30 a.m. The field events will start at 1:15 p.m. with the track events slated for a 3 p.m. start. For Sunday, the field will start at 11:30 a.m. with the track taking off at 1 p.m. For the latest throughout the weekend, visit MissouriStateBears.com and the Championship Central page on MVC-Sports.com.