NASHVILLE, Tenn. - La'Derrick Ward, Jatavia Wright, and the men's 4x400 meter relay team took home conference titles as the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville track and field team completed competition at Ohio Valley Conference Indoor Championships at the Gentry Center.
As a team, the Cougars finished fourth out of six teams on the men's side and fifth out of nine teams on the women's side. Southeast Missouri won the men's competition, while Tennessee State took first place on the women's side.
"I couldn't be happier with our accomplishments and effort," Interim coach Eileen McAllister said. "Our athletes showed grit and heart, and they had fun. The team scores don't reflect all the accomplishments and the progress this team has made since last year. I'm so proud of our coaches and athletes."
Ward won the OVC title in the triple jump on the men's side, setting a new school record of 50 feet, 0.5 inches. The junior now holds indoor school records in both the triple jump and long jump (25-3.5).
"I'm very happy with La'Derrick's response from yesterday's long jump," McAllister said. "His triple jump win was huge for us, and he shattered the old record."
The men's 4x400 meter relay team of Josh Thomas, Darius Smith, Braxton Klavins, and Ahmad Evans defended their OVC crown from a season ago, taking first place with a time of 3:14.95. The quartet edged second-place Tennessee State, who finished in 3:15.19.
"The men's 4x400 relay was awesome," McAllister said. "Ahmad got passed in the last 50 meters and he fought back to win. Darius also stepped up and ran a very solid leg when we needed him. It was huge. They defended their OVC title and just missed the school record."
McAllister was also pleased with senior captain Thomas, who filled in for the Cougars in a number of events.
"Josh was huge for the team," McAllister said. "He literally ran wherever we needed him. We put him in the 800 even though he had never run it, and we also needed him for the DMR relay and the 4x400 relay. He was a true team player and it didn't necessarily show outright in the results. He was integral to our success."
In the men's 400 meters, Klavins took second (48.45) and Evans took fourth (49.48), while freshman Derek Drew finished eighth (1:01.37). The Cougars also saw Klavins (21.59), Smith (21.71), and Evans (21.78) finish second, third, and fourth, respectively, in the finals of the 200 meters. Klavins' time was good for second-best all-time at SIUE and was also a personal best.
Smith also took second place in the men's 55 meter dash, finishing in 6.37.
Also scoring the Cougars on the men's side was Clint Kliem, who finished seventh in the mile with a time of 4:19.61. Jamil Mashni placed third in the shot put with a mark of 52-3, while Greg Blocked finished in fifth (50-1) and Alec Dutton took eighth (46-3).
Wright took first place in the women's triple jump with a mark of 42-6.5, breaking her own school record of 42-6. It's the second OVC crown in as many days for Wright, who also won the women's long jump on Friday. The junior also placed fourth in the 55 meter hurdles with a time of 8.03.
"Jatavia did her thing in the triple jump," McAllister said. "She was a spark for the team all weekend. She put herself out there and backed it up with her actions."
On the track, Hilary Conrad finished fourth in 400 meter finals (56.21) while placing seventh in the finals of the 200 meters (25.25).
LaDonna Caston placed fourth in the 55 meter dash with a new SIUE record time of 7.08 and also took fifth in the 55 meter hurdles with a finish of 8.07.
The women's 4x400 meter relay team of Conrad, Caston, Jasmine Johnson, and Kirby Hale placed fifth in 3:57.98. Claire Brown took fifth in the 3,000 meters at 10:20.04, and Renee Johns-Goodenough finished eighth in the women's mile with a time of 5:10.11.
In women's field events, Elizabeth Hampl (43-11) and Megan Lauzon (41-5) finished fifth and eighth, respectively, in the shot put.
"We had another very solid day in the throws," McAllister said. "We picked up more points than we originally hoped for."
The Cougars will now wait to see the qualification lists for NCAA Indoor National Championships, which will take place March 14-15 in Albuquerque, N.M.
SIUE is also looking forward to OVC Outdoor Championships, which will be hosted at Korte Stadium May 2-3.
"I look forward to hosting the outdoor championships and watching our continued growth over the upcoming seasons," McAllister added. "I encourage everyone to stay tuned because this is only a glimpse of what's to come."