Track set for Indoor Championship

Men picked first, Women picked second

February 26, 2011 · Athletic Communications

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - With the regular indoor season in the books, the Middle Tennessee track and field teams are set to take on the conference's best as they travel to Jonesboro, Ark., to compete in the 2011 Sun Belt Indoor Championships on Sunday and Monday.

With the men picked to win and the women slated to finish second in a recent coaches' poll, great expectations have been laid upon both rosters. However, with Middle Tennessee holding the top conference marks in seven events and the teams having 30 in the top five of their respective disciplines, the high confidence is well deserved.

"It should be a very good meet on both sides," head coach Dean Hayes said. "It should be a good battle between us and Western at the top. However, Arkansas State and North Texas have quality athletes that will make it very competitive. The league is getting strong each year. The lower winning scores are showing the points are getting more evenly distributed, which is good for the conference as a whole."

For the Blue Raider men, newcomer Justus David has exploded onto the conference scene, holding the fastest times in both the 800 and 3,000 meters. He is also third in the league in the mile, behind Festus Chemaoi and conference leader Shadrack Kipchirchir of WKU. David and Chemaoi both have excellent range will have the ability to score high in the 800-5,000 meter contests.

Josh Butler is the team's best triple jumper, leading the SBC. The Glassboro, N.J., native's season-best leap of 51-3.25 (15.62m) is more than a foot longer than the second place O'Daylon Thibeaux of Louisiana-Lafayette.

The biggest improvement on the men's roster has been the quality sprinters that Hayes is hoping to push the team over the top. Led by the quarter-miler Noah Akwu, the Blue Raider have four who can score well in the three short races. Akwu's top season time of 47.49 is the best in the league. Teammate Steven Palmer is third in the event with a time of 47.95. The duo can also run the 200 meter dash with short-sprinters Kendall Bacchus and Ken Gilstrap.

Roscoe Payne's time of 7.40 in the 55 meter hurdles is also the best in the SBC.

"The sprints will be where the men need to score the most. This is where we will be the toughest threat the other top schools. It is up to our distance-runners to keep pace and hold position in their four events. Josh Butler will have to score most of our points in the field events."

Like every strong Hayes led team, the Blue Raider women succeed or fail on the strength of their jumpers. The team has six athletes in the top five in jump events.

Ann Dudley leads the Sun Belt in the high jump with a mark of 5-11.25 (1.81m). Her jump, set in January at the Ed Temple Classic at TSU, is a school record. Cherice Robertson, 2010 Sun Belt Indoor Top Meet Scorer, has the second highest mark in the conference behind Dudley.

Long jumpers Kortney Thurman, Nyeisha Wright and Kiara Henry all hold a top five jumps in the event. Four returning Blue Raiders scored in the event at last May's SBC Outdoor Championships. Henry has the fastest time in the conference in the 200 meters.

The 55 meter hurdles will also be a very important event. Rosina Amenbede and Robertson each hold top five times and Dudley can also score for the team.

"The jumpers and sprinters are the most important events for the women. All of our top women can score well in the primary events as well as get marginal points in their secondary disciplines."

Live results for the 2011 Sun Belt Indoor Championships will be available on GoBlueRaiders.com and deltaiming.com. Stay to GoBlueRaiders.com for all post-meet coverage of both days.

Men's Predicted Order of Finish
1. Middle Tennessee
2. WKU
3. Arkansas State
4. North Texas
5. Louisiana-Lafayette
7. ULM
8. FIU
9. South Alabama

Women's Predicted Order of Finish
1. WKU
2. Middle Tennessee
3. Arkansas State
4. North Texas
5. FIU
6. Florida Atlantic
7. Louisiana-Lafayette
8. Troy
9. South Alabama
10. ULM
11. UALR

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.