TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State women’s track coach Angie Martin may have understated things when she said Tuesday that “we’re kind of on a little bit of a roll.”
While she may be hesitant to toot her own horn as they say, Martin and men’s coach John McNichols have plenty of good news to discuss this week.
Led respectively by senior throwers Felisha Johnson and Brandon Pounds, the women’s team ranks 18th in the USTFCCCA team rankings, while the men are 25th.
Johnson’s toss of 75-feet-8 is No. 1 in the NCAA and fifth in collegiate history in that event, and the Indianapolis native also ranks second in the NCAA in shot put.
“I think her first year that she won nationals it was new and exciting. Once you’ve done that the pressure’s on. Now that she’s had success in both throws, she’s matured and knows what she’s capable of doing,” Martin said. “She’s done a tremendous job. Over the last four years, she’s gotten a lot more technical in her events.”
Pounds is tops in the NCAA in weight throw as well with a heave of 73-113⁄4.
A 2012 Olympian for his native Barbados, Greggmar Swift is building off last year with a time of 7.68 in the 60-meter hurdles. The Sycamore junior is fifth in the nation and sure to be a contender for an NCAA title; Spencer Adams of Clemson leads the nation with a time of 7.59.
Swift’s focus this week is on the Missouri Valley Conference Championships at Northern Iowa.
“I haven’t won the Missouri Valley Conference indoors becuase I had injuries, hamstring problems,” Swift said. “I’m just looking to get the win for Indiana State and put Indiana State on top and then put my focus elsewhere.”
Having several high-ranking individuals nationally doesn’t automatically translate to success in a two-day, 17-event conference championship.
The Sycamores need depth in many areas, and they appear to have it. And several Wabash Valley products are playing a big part in providing that.
The ISU women haven’t won the MVC Indoor title since 2001 when Martin was a Sycamore athlete.
Martin will need strong performances from a lot of athletes other than Johnson to pull it off.
Senior Leeann Michl is favored in the 800, while former North Central standout Shelby Higginbottom is seeded third in that event with her time of 2:12.17.
Higginbottom is also the anchor for the favored 1,600 relay team. Joining her on that are Macy Black, senior hurdles favorite Stacia Weatherford and Michl.
“She is really excited and motivated,” Martin said of Higginbotham. Really coming out of her shell. Training with Leann has helped her a lot. Shelby set her goals for them to go 1-2 in the conference. If she has the right mindset, you never know. She’s very fit.”
Sprinter Katie Wise is seeded first in the 60-meter dash and second in the 200, so her performance could go a long way toward team success also.
“We’ve been middle of the road in MVC, and we were fifth indoors last year,” Martin said. “For us to be in the running for a championship is pretty exciting. The women have been motivated and worked really hard. It will take care of itself.”
The men’s team has depth in every area aside from the longer sprints. The men’s only MVC Indoor title came in 2011, and the Sycamores took second by five points to Southern Illinois last year.
“To win the Missouri Valley, you have to very deep in all the event areas. We have to be able to score two or three in every event,” McNichols said.
Former IHSAA state champion for Terre Haute North, Shaun Smith will take the second fastest 60-meter dash time into the meet behind Northern Iowa’s Derek Kramer.
The criminology graduate student is ready to compete for a victory in the 60 and the 200, where he’s seeded third.
“Seeded’s never meant anything to me [going back to high school], I never paid much attention to that,” Smith said after a workout Tuesday.
Smith had hernia surgery last year so he’s enjoyed racing at full health this year.
“My expectations are always just to win. Whatever race I’m in, it’s just to come first place. Overall the season’s gone well,” Smith said.
ISU’s sprint group could be huge in its quest for a team title as Smith is one of four ISU runners on the MVC’s top five.
Another former Patriot, pole vaulter Connor Curley is seeded second to Ryan Sidwell of Southern Illinois with a jump of 16-23⁄4. Not bad for a freshman.
John Mascari, another North alumnus and freshman, is the favorite in the 5,000 with a season-best time of 14:27.65. Mascari’s 4:10.47 ranks fifth best in the mile, while senior Dustin Betz is second in that event with a 4:06.71.
Terre Haute South grad Taylor Head has run a 14:48.42 to rank fourth in the 5,000.
Craig Pearson can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com. Please follow him on Twitter @TribStarCraig.