By Craig Pearson
TERRE HAUTE — Three sophomore women and three senior men lead a large Indiana State contingent of track and field athletes into the NCAA Mideast Regional this weekend at Fayetteville, Ark.
Wabash Valley products Kylie Hutson and Erica Moore are ISU’s top NCAA contenders as usual, but they are joined by sophomore triple jumper Lauren Martin as top-10 contenders for this weekend.
Martin, who ranks second on ISU’s all-time list with her leap of 41-10, is joined by men’s triple jumper Steve Daniel, who is also second on the school’s all-time list in the event.
“Jeff Martin, who coaches long jumpers and vaulters, and I were talking the other day and agree that no one’s worked harder on our team than Lauren Martin,” Gartland said. “She’s such a tough competitor. I think she has a good chance of advancing the way she has come on strong.”
Hutson is coming off a Missouri Valley Conference championship in pole vault, and the Terre Haute North graduate’s best jump of 14-feet, 1 1/4 inches ranks second in the region and fifth on the NCAA’s descending order list.
Moore, a sophomore from Sullivan, had a disappointing MVC meet in which she crashed on the ninth of the 10 hurdles in the 400-meter hurdles race.
“She bit the track pretty hard, but she’s a tough competitor,” Gartland said. “She came within 40 meters of pulling off the tough, tough assignment we gave her. Her legs were too tired and dead at that point.”
Moore had already finished second in the 400-meter dash and second in the long jump. Gartland scratched his star runner from the 1,600 relay.
Moore is one of the top competitors in the nation in the event, ranking fifth in the region and 12th nationally.
Moore also has a shot to advance to the NCAA meet in the heptathlon, which is not contested regionally. Moore’s score of 5,368 puts her 27th in the NCAA in that event and on the cusp of qualifying for the heptathlon.
Gartland said it would be a tough coaching decision and a “pleasant problem” to encounter.
Gartland’s fourth women’s competitor this weekend, Jeanne Middleton, might “sneak up in the top five” after a strong season this spring.
The top five earn automatic qualifying spots to the NCAA Championships at Des Moines, Iowa, but athletes can also earn an at-large beth based on the NCAA descending order performance list.
“What that means is, Moore and Hutson could have, for them, relatively bad days and still get in the NCAAs,” Gartland said. “But that’s not the way we want to get in.”
Aside from the senior Daniel in the triple jump, Sean Wright has a chance to qualify for coach John McNichols in the 200 and 400.
Daniel, Wright in the 200, senior Sean Bowman in the steeplechase and Julius Smith in the discus were all conference champions for the Sycamores.
Wright, the school record holder in the 400 with a time of 46.20 will compete in the 400 preliminaries today with a two-hour break before the 200 preliminaries.
Wright will be joined by teammate Gary Ogburn in the 200 in the senior’s first trip to the Mideast Regional.
“Gary’s been a real consistent performer for the past two years,” McNichols said.
Julius Smith is also in his first regional, just joining the Sycamores in January after transferring from Vincennes.
“He’s a gamer,” McNichols said.
Bowman has accomplished much in his four years on the track and cross country course at ISU, but he’ll be competing in his first NCAA regional Saturday evening in the 3,000 steeplechase.
He follows in a line of successful steeplechase competitors at ISU, joining recent teammates Jordan Fife and Aaron Harding.
Bowman will have to get below nine minutes to advance, which means shaving at least six seconds off his best time.
“Sean’s strong enough to put on a strong finish,” McNichols said. “I think his best race is coming. He’s as good as anybody we’ve had, with maybe the exception of Jordan.”
Craig Pearson can be reached by e-mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (812) 231-4356.