The Wichita State track and field team is gearing up for its debut at the American Athletic Conference Outdoor Championships, hosted in Cincinnati starting on Friday and streamed on Facebook Live on the conference's Facebook page.
The men's team, which won the last two outdoor titles in the Missouri Valley, is expected to challenge league favorite Houston for the AAC title this weekend. The women's team, which won the last four titles in the MVC, is redshirting much of its top talent and will be eying individual improvements at the conference meet.
Here are 10 WSU athletes with the potential to score major points for the Shockers this weekend. Live results can be viewed here.
Senior multi from Cheney, Kan.
Veith, a four-time All-American in the decathlon, owns the second-best decathlon score in the nation but won't compete in the event at the conference meet. To maximize his points, Veith instead will compete in the 110-meter hurdles, long jump, high jump, pole vault and triple jump. While Veith isn't the favorite in any of those events, his personal-bests place him top-three in the hurdles (14.34 seconds), long jump (25 feet, 6.25 inches) and high jump (6-10.75). Any points he scores in the pole vault (16-8.75) or the triple jump (47-7.5) would be viewed as a bonus.
Junior jumps from Leavenworth, Kan.
Belardo has the second-best triple jump (51-3) and fourth-best long jump (25-4.5) this season in the AAC. He enters with the most championship experience of any jumper on the WSU team, as he is a six-time conference champion and owns WSU's all-time best indoor mark in the long jump and second-best mark, indoor and outdoor, in the triple jump. Belardo is also a member of WSU's 4x100 relay team, which has posted the second-fastest time (40.28) in program history.
Junior javelin from Leroy, Kan.
True owns the sixth-best throw in the nation this season at 236-5, which is tops in the conference and ranks him fourth all-time in WSU history. True can challenge the program record if he can surpass the 240-foot mark. But the title isn't a given for True, as Houston's Jack Thomas (234-10) is right behind in the national rankings. That showdown will be one of the more entertaining throwing events of the weekend, with men's javelin is scheduled to start Sunday at 10 a.m.
Freshman jumps from St. Louis, Mo.
Allen enters the weekend with the conference's best triple jump this outdoor season with a mark of 51-3.75, seventh all-time in program history. In his debut indoor season, Allen landed fourth on WSU's all-time list and took third at the AAC meet. Allen's biggest competition this weekend may be teammate Belardo, as they are the only two AAC jumpers to clear 51 feet this season. Allen also runs on WSU's 4x100 relay team and has the fifth-best long jump (25-2) in the AAC this season.
Sophomore hurdles from Adrian, Mo.
Corley won the 400 hurdles title in the Missouri Valley last spring and ranks second in program history in the event. His season-best time of 51.25 seconds ranks third entering the AAC meet, but Corley could contend with the favorite, Houston's Amere Lattin (50.29), if he runs close to his career-best time of 50.59.
Junior multi from Cheney, Kan.
Miles is a two-time javelin champion in the Missouri Valley and owns the program record by more than five feet, with a throw of 164-11. She hasn't approached that mark yet this season, but Miles' season-best throw of 156-5 still ranks her third going into the conference meet. Miles will also try to help score points for the Shockers in the heptathlon.
Sophomore distance from Raytown, Mo.
Penrod won the conference title in the indoor mile and enters with the conference's second-best time in the 1500 after running a 3:45.41 (moving him up to No. 5 all-time in program history) in last week's Shocker Open. The outdoor 1500 is expected to be a showdown between Penrod and Connecticut's Michael O'Donnell (3:44.10), whom Penrod defeated head-to-head in the indoor mile.
Freshman distance runner
In her debut season, Koskei has run her way into the WSU history books. Her season-best times of 16:30.16 in the 5,000 (sixth-best) and 34:47.00 in the 10,000 (fourth-best) rank her best all-time in program history. Both times also rank her second in the AAC going into the weekend behind heavy favorite in SMU's Hannah Miller (16:09.99 in 5,000 and 33:43.35 in 10,000).
Junior throws from Paola, Kan.
Slawson is coming off her best shot put throw in her career, a 51-0.75 heave that shattered the program record by more than two feet. She also owns the school record in the indoor shot put. Lawson will see if she can carry the momentum over into the conference meet, as she moved up to fifth with her personal-best throw.
Men's 4x100 relay team
Denvoir Griffin (Kansas City, Mo.), Rayvon Allen (St. Louis, Mo.), Erick Ngaiza (Bigbend, Swaziland), and Jared Belardo (Leavenworth, Kan.)
It's not likely WSU is going to catch Houston, which has the fourth-fastest time in the nation and is consistently breaking 39 seconds. But the Shockers' quartet of Griffin, Allen, Ngaiza and Belardo have a chance to become just the second 4x100 team in program history to break 40 seconds. The team's season-best time of 40.28 ranks third in the AAC and is the second-fastest time in WSU history.