Special to the Tribune-Star
DES MOINES, Iowa —
A thrilling, record-setting 4x400 relay by the Indiana State women Sunday afternoon enabled them to join the Sycamore men as Missouri Valley Conference outdoor track and field champions.
ISU’s men had taken a commanding lead earlier in the day, but the final event of women’s competition found ISU behind defending MVC champion Wichita State 161-156.5. To win the meet, ISU had to win and Wichita had to finish fourth or worse.
“There are three seniors on that relay team and they knew what they had to do for us to win the championship; they accomplished their part in record fashion,” coach Angela Martin said later.
Shelby Higginbottom, the only non-senior on the relay team, got the race off to a good start and by the time Stacia Weatherford finished her second leg Indiana State had a big lead. Leeann Michl and Macey Black maintained the advantage as the relay finished in an Indiana State and MVC Championship record time of 3:38.76. The previous record was held by Michl, Weatherford, Lauren Martin and Erica Moore, who ran 3:38.94 to win the 2010 MVC 4x400 meter relay title.
The 10 points for winning lifted Indiana State to 166.50 points while Wichita State, fifth in the 4x400 relay, finished with 165. The championship is the first for the Sycamore women since 1999 and their seventh as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Sycamore men claimed their third straight title by scoring 198.50 points with Wichita State second (168.50), Southern Illinois third (161), Northern Iowa fourth (113), Drake fifth (85), Illinois State sixth (71), and Bradley seventh (11). It is the ninth outdoor title for the Sycamore men as members of the Missouri Valley Conference.
It was the first time in 20 years that the Sycamores have won both titles. ISU doubled up in the conference championship meet in Terre Haute in 1993, when the women finished ahead of Illinois State 138-106 and the men topped Northern Iowa 139-122.
Northern Iowa, in 2008, was the last MVC school to claim both the men’s and women’s championships.
“This team has a lot of depth and they are a very resilient group of guys,” men’s coach John McNichols said. “They did not let a couple of setbacks early in the day stop them from achieving their goal of winning this championship. Wichita State and Southern Illinois are two very good programs and they did well during the first two days of the championship. But we qualified well and scored a lot of points in those finals.”
McNichols received his 10th Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year award following the completion of competition Sunday.
“This was just an amazing day,” said Martin, who won her first MVC Coach of the Year award. “The team really pulled together and knew that every point would count. There is great competition in the Missouri Valley and we had great performances from everyone. The women really wanted to win today.”
ISU’s Maurice Lyke was named the Most Outstanding Male Athlete at the 2013 MVC Championships as he scored 26 points during his competition. Greggmar Swift was named the Most Outstanding Men’s Track Athlete while Felisha Johnson was named the Most Outstanding Women’s Field Athlete.
ISU had seven individual championships and two relay wins on Sunday.
The women’s 4x100 team of Kaisha Martin, Black, Demetra Camble and Katie Wise won in 45.16 seconds, ISU’s first 4x100 win since 1994.
Johnson captured her second MVC title of the 2013 championships with a throw of 174-feet-10 in the women’s discus, ISU’s first win in that event since Beth Hilton in 2002.
Swift won his second straight MVC title in the men’s 110-meter hurdles in a season-best 13.52 seconds, just shy of the record of 13.47 set by former Sycamore Aubrey Herring in 2001. Maurice Lyke was second for Indiana State in 13.90.
Wise won the 100 meters with her collegiate best of 11.41 seconds; Michl dominated from the start in the women’s 800 meters and won in 2:08.73; and Weatherford moved to 13th in the national rankings as she ran 57.62 seconds to win the MVC crown in the women’s 400-meter hurdles.
Jonathan Jackson led a sweep of the top three places in the men’s 400-meter hurdles as he ran his collegiate best of 51.78 followed by Max Tuttle in 51.82 and Arqeil Shaw in 52.78, and Keith Housley ran past teammate Justin Baxtron to win the men’s 200, Housley finishing in 21.71 seconds and Baxtron, the defending champion in the event, in 21.85.