Track to host SBC Outdoor Championships

Ninth-time program has hosted conference championship

May 12, 2011 · Athletic Communications

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee track and field teams will play host to the 2011 Sun Belt Conference Outdoor Championships this Friday through Sunday at the Dean A. Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium.

Each day of competition will begin around 10 a.m., with field events. Saturday and Sunday's night sessions will each feature a full-slate of track races.

This weekend marks the ninth time in program history, the Blue Raiders have hosted a conference outdoor championship. It is the second-time Middle Tennessee has been the home school since joining the Sun Belt Conference 10 seasons ago. Head coach Dean Hayes' squads have won two outdoor titles when competing in Murfreesboro.

"It is nice to compete on your home track," Hayes said. "Our athletes get to sleep in their own beds and go through a normal routine. Plus, our fans can come see us run."

The Blue Raider women will be led by their superb jumping corps. On the season, long jumpers Kortney Thurman, Kiara Henry, Cherice Robertson and Nyeisha Wright all rank in the top-five within the Sun Belt Conference. Thurman leads the league and sits second in the NCAA East Region with a mark of 20-11.25 (6.38m), earned at the Boston-Moon Invitational.

In the high jump, Ann Dudley holds the top-SBC height at 5-9.25 (1.76m). Robertson sits second in conference, marking 5-8 (1.73m).

Triple jumper France Makabu enters the meet ranked third in events with a distance of 41-0.25 (12.5m).

Sophomore Amber Jackson is the only other Blue Raider in the top-three in her discipline, holding a 2:07.80 time in the 800 meters for the second on the year.

The 100-meter hurdles looks to be one of the most competitive events of the women's competition. Four athletes enter the meet with a top-48 time in the NCAA East Region. For the Blue Raiders, Rosina Amenebede holds the fourth fastest league time at 13.64, while ranking 33rd in the Regionally.

"We should score well in the jumps. It will take some big performances in some of the other events to help the team finish well."

The Blue Raider men enter the meet as defending Sun Belt Indoor Champions. However, injuries have hampered the roster through the outdoor season.

All-American Noah Awku is the most noticeable athlete to have battled ailments in the 2011 outdoor campaign. Akwu has not run an open 200- or 400-meter dash this season. He has run in the relay events. The sophomore became the program's second athlete to earn indoor All-American honors in the 200-meter dash last March in College Station, Texas.

Sprinter Ken Gilstrip is also a question for the team. Gilstrap won both the 55- and 200-meter dashes at the 2011 SBC Indoor Championships. He has only run one race in the outdoor season.

In the hurdles, Roscoe Payne has recovered from injury that kept him from competing in last February's conference indoor meet. Payne, the top 400-intermediate hurdler in the in league, sits 22nd in the NCAA East Region with a time of 51.99.

Josh Butler is the only other male to lead the conference in an event. Butler sits atop the league high jump charts, while standing 33rd in the region with a height of 7-0.25 (2.14m).

Distance runner Festus Chemaoi has been running well in the later half of the outdoor campaign. The 10-time Sun Belt Champion enters this weekend with the second fastest times in both the 1,500 and 5,000 meters.

"The men have a chance to win if everyone comes back strong. A lot will depend how all our top athletes perform."

In 2009, the last time Middle Tennessee hosted an outdoor championships, the Blue Raider men finished runner-up to rival WKU. Festus Chemaoi doubled, taking the 800 and 1,500 meter titles. Roscoe Payne won the 400-meter hurdles and took second in the 110-meter hurdles. He was honored as Freshman of the Year for his accomplishment. Then senior Carl Morgan was named Male Field Athlete of the Year for winning the triple jump and placing third in the long jump.

On the women's side, Sarah Nambawa was named Female Field Athlete of the Year upon claiming both the triple and long jump crown. The 4x400-meter relay team took first place overall. As a team, the women placed third behind champions Western Kentucky and FIU.

Live results and daily coverage of the Blue Raiders at the 2011 Sun Belt Outdoor Championships will be available at GoBlueRaiders.com.

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