Wichita State’s men’s track and field team gets another shot to end Indiana State’s dominance in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Shockers haven’t won an MVC title since 2010, when it scored a program-record 224 points. Since then, Indiana State won four straight titles with WSU finishing second the past three.
“Indiana State has had a heck of a run,” WSU coach Steve Rainbolt said. “It won’t be easy this year. We look like the favorites, but it’s close.”
MVC coaches voted WSU the favorite in the men’s meet ahead of Indiana State. The Shockers are picked second on the women’s side behind Indiana State. The MVC Championships begin Friday in Normal, Ill., and continue through Sunday at the Redbird Track and Field Complex.
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The WSU women are the defending champions and also won the outdoor meet in 2011 and 2012. Their chances to repeat as champions improved, in Rainbolt’s mind, as the meet’s heat sheets became final; Indiana State’s potential to score points dropped from previous form charts when it limited the number of events for some top athletes.
“We like our women’s chances,” he said. “The form chart now shows favorably for Wichita State.”
WSU’s men should score significantly in the javelin, where four of the top six performances belong to Shockers, and the hammer, where Weston Cottrell, Skylar Arneson and Taylor Goldsmith rank in the top six. Arneson also ranks fourth in the shot and sixth in the discus. Jon Duvall ranks first in the 400-meter hurdles (50.91 seconds) and third in the 110-meter hurdles (14.13). Decathlete Hunter Veith is out with an elbow injury, robbing WSU of the MVC’s points leader (6,562).
Depth should help WSU pile up points in the distance races. Ugis Jocis brings the MVC’s top steeplechase time (9:00.46) into the meet and also ranks fourth in the 1,500 (1:51.76). Brady Johnson’s time of 14:03.58 ranks third in the 5,000 and he is second in the 10,000 (29:21.39). Chris Burnett isn’t in the top five of any event, but Rainbolt sees him as an athlete who is capable of exceeding expectations.
“We’ve got the potential to out-perform the form chart in the distance events,” Rainbolt said.
The women could get a similar edge from Jenny Pinkston in the heptathlon. Pinkston, who finished third in the pentathlon in the MVC indoor meet with 3,702 points, has been limited by an ankle injury in the outdoor season. She will compete this weekend and duplicating last season’s sixth-place finish (5,012 points) would be a bonus.
“It appears she's coming around and it appears she might be able to jump up and give our team a boost,” Rainbolt said. “She could be a way significant part of our championship.”
Heptathlon leader Nikki Larch-Miller will not compete in that event. WSU will try to maximize her point-scoring potential by entering her in the 100 meters, 200, the 100 hurdles, long jump, javelin and both relays. She owns the MVC’s top performances in the 200 (23.23 seconds) and is second in the 100 (11.44), the long jump (19-7 1/2) and the 100-meter high hurdles (13.29). Twin sister Taylor Larch-Miller ranks first in the high hurdles (13.19) and second in the 400 hurdles (59.23).
Sidney Hirsch ranks third in the steeplechase (10:33.50) and sixth in the 5,000 meters (16:54.14).
Shockers add two — Cowley College javelin thrower Damien Odle and jumper Katie Murray from Rolla signed with WSU.
Odle, a sophomore from Kiowa County High, is the Jayhawk Conference and Region VI champion with a throw of 205 feet, 11 inches. Murray won the Class 1A high jump last spring with a height of 5-2.