Tracksters Aim for Another SBC ChampionshipMay 8, 2003 · MT Media Relations
By Michael Bailey
Special to GoBlueRaiders.com
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee track squads begin competition this weekend in the Sun Belt Championships in Denton, Texas, and 14-time Outdoor Coach of the Year Dean Hayes says the Blue Raiders and Lady Raiders appear poised for a promising performance as each team aims for its second outdoor conference championship in four years.
"We have a good shot at winning five events in the women's competitions, and an opportunity to add four more wins in the men's division," Hayes said. "If we get wins in the sprints and solid performances from the rest of the squad, we have a good chance to win the conference."
This is a rewarding and well-deserved air of confidence for the coach who plugged away last year despite an injury list that would rival a MASH unit.
"We are in pretty good shape health-wise compared to last year. Everyone at this stage of the season experiences bumps and bruises, but we had five years worth of injuries last year. Our medical bill was three times what it normally is."
The Blue Raiders were picked to win the conference championship by the league's coaches in a poll released Thursday by the Sun Belt office, while the Lady Raiders were picked second behind North Texas. The Middle Tennessee women won a conference title in 2001 in Miami, Fla., and the men won in 2001 in New Orleans, La.
Last year in New Orleans the Blue Raiders were without Jasper Demps, Geoffrey Lagat, Mardy Scales and Rob Jordan, four competitors with nine outdoor conference championships among them in their career. Demps, Scales and Jordan are all back this year, while Lagat is redshirting the outdoor season. Lady Raider Jerkita McClorin also sat out the entire 2002 campaign.
Sophomore Rosemary Okafor carries the torch for the Lady Raiders heading into Friday's first day of competition at Fouts Field on the University of North Texas campus. Okafor earned SBC Track Performer of the Week honors in April and holds the fastest time in the conference this outdoor season in the 400m and the second fastest mark in both the 100 and 200m.
In the field events senior Kim Freeman, who likewise earned Sun Belt Performer of the Week honors in April, projects to tally victories in the long jump and the triple jump. Freeman won the long jump at the 2000 SBC Championships in Miami, Fla., and holds the top mark in the conference this season in the triple jump.
"Rosemary has been outstanding all year for us, both indoors and outdoors. She has improved each week and is getting stronger with every competition.
"Kim is really our only senior on the women's squad and has been very consistent throughout her career. She wants to go out on a high note."
The Blue Raiders will look to junior Mardy Scales to continue his already notable outdoor season, which includes SBC Performer of the Week honors and marks in the Top 20 in the country in both the 100 and 200m. Scales owns the fastest times in the Sun Belt in both the 100 (10.27) and 200m (20.77), both runs three weeks ago at the Vanderbilt Invitational in his first outdoor meet of the season. Coach Hayes believes at least three of Scales teammates will vie for titles as well.
"Sean Waller should be a factor in the 400m, and in the intermediate hurdles either DJ Spann or Victor Okorie could win."
Coach Hayes and the track squads fly to Denton on Thursday for the weekend long trials, and considering their overall health and success thus far, the Raiders look for a successful stay in the great state of Texas.
Michael Bailey is a Middle Tennessee student and can be reached at email@example.com.
Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.
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