Track and Field heads for Sun Belt Conference Championships
Meet held May 10-12 in Miami, Fla.May 9, 2013 · @MTAthletics
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Blue Raider track and field squads head to Miami, Fla., this weekend for their final Sun Belt Conference Championships, looking to end their term in the league the same way they entered - as champions.
Middle Tennessee was invited to the 2000 SBC Championships in order to be "introduced to the league," but ended up coming home with the women's title.
"The Sun Belt has been very good to us," head coach Dean Hayes said. "We've won a number of championships - in fact; we won in 2000 before we were officially in the league. We won titles in two leagues (SBC and OVC) within an eight-day period. I don't know that that's ever been done before."
The event, held May 10-12 at the Ansin Sports Complex, is hosted by FIU.
"I guess this is going to be an odd one because it's our last one," Hayes. "We want to go out with good performances. Of course, anytime you go to your conference championships you want to win the title, but it'll be a lot nicer this time."
Fans can follow along at sunbeltsports.org, or by clicking the links above.
"The men will have a chance depending on how things fall, obviously," Hayes said. "We've probably gotten a lot better outdoor than we were indoors, so hopefully we can have a shot.
Sprinters Noah Akwu and Emmanuel Tugumisirize will highlight the Blue Raiders in the shorter distances, while freshman Tahir Walsh will hope to help MT in just his third collegiate meet.
"Tahir came from Antigua, and we got him because of people I knew 35-40 years ago in the OVC," Hayes said. "He's got pretty good potential, but he wasn't here for the first semester so I think next year he'll be even better once he gets the fall workouts in. This spring, though, I think he can help us and grab a few points for the team."
Tugumisirize is another newcomer, and though he has just one year of eligibility, will likely challenge for an individual title or two.
"Emmanuel has really done the job for us," Hayes said. "He has a chance to place in the nationals, and is just a lot of fun to watch. He really has solidified our relay this year. He's just been great."
In the distance and field portions, the Blue Raiders have a deep roster. Silas Taiget, Robinson Simatei, Alden Dixon, Keith Davis and Eliud Rutto will all challenge for points in the distance races. For the field events, Cordairo Golden, Kameron Rory and Nigel Jones all have shown they have what it takes to place high.
"Rutto is one of those good distance runners," Hayes said. "He's come in and done everything we've asked and should be fun to watch. In field events, we'll look for Cordairo Golden to make his mark in the triple and hopefully long jumps."
"For the women, it'll be a little more difficult but hopefully we can finish in the top group," Hayes said. "There are four or five teams that really anyone can win the title, so you can place anywhere from first to fifth probably, but just like last year indoors, we won the title by one point and another team was right behind."
Leading the way for the Blue Raider women is Ann Dudley, who defended her high jump crown at the Penn Relays this season, winning this year's competition with a height of 1.84 meters, tying her personal best that she set at the 2012 Penn Relays. Dudley's jump of six feet, one-half inch is the fourth highest jump of any NCAA female competitor this season, and No. 1 in Sun Belt by .02 meters (two inches). Dudley also matched the conference record she set from last season at the Penn Relays as well.
"Ann has been an All-American for us, and won the Penn Relays two years in a row at 1.84 meters," Hayes said. "That's her personal best mark, but I think she can go higher. She's been close on a bunch of jumps, in fact a lot of jumps at the Penn Relays were close at 1.87 meters, so she can go higher and hopefully she can do it."
Also for the women, Autumn Gipson will compete in the 3,000 meter steeplechase, where she holds the school record.
"Autumn, if she runs well, can do a lot of good stuff for us," Hayes said. "So can France Makabu, who was in the NCAAs last season in the triple jump, and Amber Jackson."
Hayes also pointed out that Christal Wilson is close to breaking through on the 400 meter hurdles, and can do "special things if she gets the chance."
Finally, Rachel Islam has found herself competing in a number of events this season, and though she is signed up for every event (400 meter hurdles, 800 meter run and the 3,000 meter steeplechase) at the Sun Belt meet, will likely only compete in one.
Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.
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