The brag board on the north end of Cessna Stadium proves that Wichita State coach Steve Rainbolt called it right. He predicted big things from the group of around 50 track and field newcomers that arrived in 2012.
On Sunday at Cessna Stadium, the Shockers swept the Missouri Valley Conference outdoor titles for the second straight season to provide the final result of Rainbolt’s confidence. The WSU women won with a meet-record 226 points, smashing the previous mark of 204. The men pulled away from Northern Iowa late on Sunday afternoon, scoring 181.5 points.
“When those girls came in, I told people consistently that I felt like we were starting the golden age of Shocker track and field,” Rainbolt said. “That’s a huge class of newcomers and I just had a feeling there’s some really good athletes in there.”
Five years later, those seniors leave with women’s MVC indoor titles in 2013 and 2017 and the past four outdoor titles. The WSU men won the past two indoor and outdoor titles.
WSU ends its time in the MVC with 10 women’s outdoor titles, more than any other school, and nine for the men. The Shockers join the American Athletic Conference on July 1.
Two seniors led WSU’s overwhelming women’s effort. Nikki Larch-Miller led the meet with 28 points in the heptathlon and five open events, highlighted by a second-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles and third in the heptathlon. Breanne Borman scored 26 points in three open events, finishing second in the javelin, and won the heptathlon.
“As a freshman, I don’t think I really thought about it,” Borman said. “As we’ve all developed over these five years, it’s amazing how much we’ve accomplished. Our senior class is really close and we’ve all grown together.”
A sophomore also played a major role in the women’s record. Rebekah Topham scored 26 points in three events. She finished second in the 1,500 meters and the 3,000-meter steeplechase. With Shockers in control late Sunday, coaches gave her the option to skip the 5,000. She won it with a time of 17 minutes, 28.82 seconds.
“I didn’t want to have any regrets,” she said. “So I was like, ‘Heck yes, I might as well give it a shot.’ ”
The Shockers passed the previous mark, set by Southern Illinois in 2010, midway through Sunday afternoon. WSU’s previous high was 194 in 2011.
“It was definitely one for the books,” Topham said. “It’s a great way to finish off the Valley and bring home the championship.”
The Northern Iowa men stayed close to WSU most of the afternoon. The Panthers picked up 28 points in the discus to put pressure on the Shockers. Hamstring injuries threw off WSU’s projections by keeping Jared Belardo out of the triple jump and Mike Wells out of the 100 and 200.
The meet swung when WSU junior Hunter Veith finished third in the triple jump to provide six unexpected points and Austin Corley won the 400-meter hurdles for 10 points. Isaac Poe’s fourth-place finish added five points and pushed back expected points for UNI.
Veith, who won the long jump on Saturday with a leap of 25 feet, last triple jumped at Cheney High. Coaches took advantage of his decathlete skills by entering him in five events and he scored 27.5 points. The triple jump of 49 feet, 5 inches helped clinch the meet.
“I haven’t triple jumped in four years,” he said. “This past week, I put a few sessions in and decided it was going to be worth my time. A personal best by just shy of two feet.”
The triple jump came easy for Veith in high school. At WSU, the decathlon dominated his time, until Sunday.
“Luckily enough, it came back naturally,” he said.
Larch-Miller and Southern Illinois’ Kyle Landon were named Most Valuable Athlete. Landon scored 30 points, highlighted by wins in the high jump and triple jump.
Indiana State’s Alethia Marrero, who won the women’s 400 hurdles, earned Most Outstanding Track Athlete honor. UNI’s Brandon Carnes, a sprinter, won the men’s award.
Southern Illinois thrower Freya Block and Borman shared Most Outstanding Field Athlete honors for the women. Landon earned the men’s honor.
Rainbolt won Coach of the Year for the men and women.
Mills needed a push — WSU senior Courtney Mills popped a personal record to win the triple jump and her first MVC title.
Her distance of 41 feet, 8 inches eclipsed her previous mark of 40-4.
Credit competition, both from teammate Meghan Holmes and Drake’s Taryn Rolle and Kezia Martin of Southern Illinois.
“The atmosphere was amazing,” she said. “Those girls are just so amazing to push you. Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to go well, but it just seemed like it worked out.”
Jumps coach Heidi Yost was glad to see Mills jump aggressively after a season in which she sometimes held back.
“It’s like someone lit a fire under my butt,” Mills said. “I can’t express how important Heidi Yost was in making that jump. She’s a motivator. You mess up, she’s going to put you back in place. Everybody needs a coach like that.”
Corley rallies late — A foot injury limited Corley for the first half of the outdoor season. He entered the weekend second in the MVC with a time of 51.46 seconds in the hurdles, trailing Drake’s Bas Van Leersum at 51.35.
On Sunday, Corley completed his comeback with a win in a time of 52.32 seconds. Van Leersum finished third at 52.75.
“We all knew we needed to make up points,” Corley said. “And I knew what I was capable of. It all clicked into place.”
Corley finished second last season in the race with a time of 51.71.
UNI and unbeaten — Carnes won the 100 with a time of 9.97 seconds that ranks No. 2 nationally. He won the 200 with a time of 20.42.
Those wins made Carnes, a senior from Bradenton, Fla., 16-0 in MVC championship sprints. He won four indoor 60 and 200 sprints and four 100 and 200 sprints in outdoor meets.
MVC track and field
1. Wichita State 181.5
2. Northern Iowa 166
3. Southern Illinois 143.5
4. Indiana State 104
5. Illinois State 96
T6. Bradley 43
T6. Loyola 43
8. Drake 42
1. Wichita State 226
2. Illinois State 137
3. Southern Illinois 107
4. Indiana State 104
5. Northern Iowa 90
6. Missouri State 70
T7. Drake 38
T7. Loyola 38
9. Bradley 8