Wichita State’s Breanne Borman’s legs quit just past the finish line for the 800 meters, the heptathlon’s final event. She collapsed on the track and rested on her back.
“It hurts,” she said, while teammates and coaches huddled over her. “It hurts.”
She poured water on her neck and stomach. Then the pain subsided, at least a bit, in favor of celebration. She raised her arm and displayed three fingers.
“We got three in,” she said.
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That finish seemed fitting for Wichita State’s senior class of heptathletes.
The Shockers, with Borman’s 5,640 points first, won the top four spots Saturday at the Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Cessna Stadium. Borman, second-place Gavyn Yetter (5,553 points) and third-place Nikki Larch-Miller (5,370) appear to rank in the top 24 nationally.
Should those points totals hold up through the weekend, the trio qualifies for the NCAA Championships in June in Eugene, Ore. WSU sent two multi-athletes to previous NCAA meets, but no more.
“A dream,” Larch-Miller said. “It’s one of the most cherished memories we’ll ever have. To be best friends with these girls and then compete at such a level with them and going to the national meet together, it’s something I never dreamed would happen.”
Fellow senior Martiesha Caines finished fourth with 5,295 points and the Shockers scored 29 points in the event to widen their lead in the Valley team standings.
As Borman’s legs demonstrated, the points came with a price.
Larch-Miller totaled 5,551 points earlier this season and ranked No. 15 entering the meet, so she did not feel the pressure to score big. Borman and Yetter needed to set personal records in the heptathlon, and needed personal records in the 800 to get there.
That was good for Yetter, who is a strong runner and loves the 800. Borman is a jumper and a thrower, who won the shot put (42 feet, 3 1/2 inches) and javelin (139-11) and tied for the high jump at 5-5 3/4.
“The 800 was rough,” Borman said. “I felt really good through 600. I died a little at the end.”
Borman finished with a time of 2 minutes, 23.44 seconds to set a personal record by almost two seconds.
“She’s not an 800-meter runner and she has found a way in important situations to still give credible, good, solid 800-meter performances,” WSU coach Steve Rainbolt said.
Yetter also needed an unprecedented performance to score enough points to move into the top 24 nationally. Coaches knew she needed to hit 2:14, but didn’t tell her. She targeted 2:16 and won the race with a 2:14.77.
“I kind of like going in not knowing things,” she said. “I don’t like to hear things. Just let it be a race and run with your heart.”
Larch-Miller set a fast pace for the first 400 meters to get Yetter rolling in the lead.
“We knew she needed a 2:14,” Larch-Miller said. “I wanted to be able to help her do that and it’s always easier when you don’t have to think about what you’re doing for at least 400 meters.”
Yetter ran and told herself to stay calm.
“She had to PR by almost two seconds,” Rainbolt said. “She did with a fabulous spirit, a fabulous effort. I told her ‘Hey, you were built for this. You’re going to do this.’ ”
Borman and Larch-Miller are veterans of NCAA national meets. Yetter, from Topeka, will make her first trip. She started the weekend with a personal-best time of 13.80 in the 100-meter hurdles and that momentum carried her. Three years ago, she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee in the hurdles.
“That’s been a big mental block,” she said. “Being able to cross that finish line and see a 13.80 made me ecstatic and pushed me through the rest of the events.”
Rainbolt and the athletes spent Friday night and much of Saturday looking at scores from other conference meets. On Saturday afternoon, their calculations told them Borman, Yetter and Larch-Miller scored enough to qualify for the trip to Oregon.
On Sunday, they will know if their spots in the top 24 are locked.
“It’s history in the making,” Yetter said. “It will be an experience of a lifetime.”
Johnson wins decathlon — WSU sophomore Ben Johnson won the decathlon with 7,053 points.
Johnson, who finished second last season, won the 110-meter hurdles Saturday with a time of 14.44 seconds. He finished second in the discus with a throw of 129-2.
WSU’s Kaden Griffin finished third with 6,602 points.
Shockers lead — WSU is well on its way to sweeping the team titles for a second straight meet.
The women have 124 points after two days with Illinois State in second with 55. The men’s total of 100 points leads second-place SIU by 34.
The Valley’s women’s scoring record is 204, set by SIU in 2010. WSU’s high is 194 in 2011.
SIU’s Landon wins again — Southern Illinois senior Kyle Landon won the high jump for a fourth time, clearing 7-2 1/2.
WSU’s Austin Chippeaux finished third at 6-8 3/4.
On Friday, Landon threw the javelin for the first time and finished seventh with a throw of 163-4.
Veith takes long jump — WSU’s Hunter Veith won the long jump with a leap of 25 feet, topping Landon by 1/4-inch.
WSU’s Jared Belardo finished third at 24-10 1/2.
MVC outdoor championships
- 11:30 a.m. — Field events
- 1 p.m. — Running events
- 4:20 p.m. — Awards
Tickets: $6 (adults), $3 children and seniors, Free 3 and under
1. Wichita State 124
2. Illinois State 55
3. Northern Iowa 47
4. Indiana State 42
5. Southern Illinois 33
6. Missouri State 21
7. Loyola 20
8. Bradley 8
9. Drake 1
1. Wichita State 100
2. Southern Illinois 66
3. Northern Iowa 60
4. Illinois State 36
5. Indiana State 21
T6. Drake 10
8. Bradley 9