State Colleges

Friends, Kennedy give title new home

It doesn't matter how many times Friends women's track and field coach Matt Kennedy does the equation for how his team won the KCAC track title for the first time in school history on Sunday, because there is still one factor he leaves out every time.

He can't, somehow, account for himself.

"I'm happy we've had success, and I'm happy we were able to (win the KCAC)," Kennedy said. "We feel like if we focus on competing at the national level, on scoring points at the national meet, then conference titles will be a byproduct of that preparation."

That preparation paid off as first-year coach Kennedy and the Falcons brought home the league title and in the process broke Southwestern's 17-year win streak at the KCAC tournament.

Kennedy won two national titles as an assistant at Oklahoma Baptist before taking over at Friends.

"Sometimes it takes a couple of years before things are running the way you want them and the kids know how to handle everything," said Kennedy, who was named the KCAC women's coach of the year. "But this group was not only really talented, but they're also really young. Part of me thinks they've done so well because they just don't know any better — there's no nerves, there's no inhibition."

In all, seven different athletes brought home seven different individual titles for Friends, including three distance titles in the 5,000-meter run (Taylor Doll), 10,000 (Karissa Cominator) and 3,000 steeplechase (Megan Shepherd).

Last season, the Falcons registered just two points in distance events. Sunday, they racked up just over 90.

Kennedy credits both a full indoor season — a first for Friends — and men's track and field coach Brad Anderson for the success. Anderson works with distance runners for both teams and is also the Friends cross-country coach.

"We changed some of their training routines, but the talent was already there," Anderson said. "In sprints, you're either fast or you're not ... you can't really get around that. In distance running, hard work can defeat talent in some cases.

"Once they were able to see the improvement and the results, it just kind of steamrolled from there."

On the men's side, Ottawa's Clarence Anderson stole the show on his way to being named the tournament's outstanding athlete.

The Wichita Southeast product and all-KCAC wide receiver was named the tournament's most outstanding athlete, taking first in the 100, 200, 400 and anchoring the Braves' first-place team in the 400 relay. He was also third in the long jump.

Southwestern was the men's champion, and Friends finished second.