Redhawks bid for two more OVC titles

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Southeast women will be defending their title, while the men try to dethrone EIU.

Southeast Missouri State track and field coach Joey Haines doesn't expect things to be easy.

But Haines does expect his program to bring home two more Ohio Valley Conference titles this weekend.

Haines believes the Southeast men and women are capable of fending off strong challenges to sweep the OVC indoor meet, set for Friday and Saturday at Tennessee State University in Nashville.

"Neither one is a slam dunk, but we'll be disappointed if we don't win both," Haines said.

Southeast's women will be gunning for their third consecutive OVC indoor championship and their sixth straight conference title overall. That string includes the last three outdoor crowns.

"To have that kind of consistency says a lot for our program," Haines said.

Southeast's women have coasted to the last few conference championships. Haines doesn't expect that to happen this time, but he remains confident.

"We've been winning by 100 points. We won't do that. We have less margin for error," Haines said. "If we don't have a good meet, we could get beat. But I'm pretty confident we're going to win. We're pretty young, but we have a lot of good athletes."

Junior Lindsay Zeiler is the Redhawks' lone returning individual champion as she has won the mile the past two years.

The Redhawks are bolstered by the return of senior thrower Heather Jenkins, a Central High School graduate who redshirted last season with a knee injury. She has won 10 OVC titles overall, and will be favored in the shot put and weight throw.

Haines expects others to contend for titles, including Central High School product Lainie Bohnsack, a junior transfer from Truman State who has the OVC's best high jump this year.

Whitney Thomas, the OVC's indoor freshman of the year, also has the league's top time in the 55-meter hurdles.

"The women's meet will be very competitive," Haines said. "Tennessee State, Eastern Kentucky, Samford and Eastern Illinois all have teams that could win the title. We have the best overall balance, but we will need solid performances to repeat as champions."

Smith leads men's team

While Southeast's women have dominated the OVC the past few years, the men broke through to capture the 2005 conference outdoor title after finishing second indoors behind five-time champion Eastern Illinois.

"They [Eastern Illinois] are still stinging from the fact we came back and won the outdoor title," Haines said. "It should be a great meet."

The Redhawks will be led by junior Miles Smith, their lone returning individual champion who captured the 400 meters last year, while anchoring the victorious mile relay team.

Smith, who repeated as the OVC indoor track athlete of the year, will run four races, as will senior Alonzo Nelson and freshman Chris Williams.

Smith will run the 55, 200 and 400, as well as the mile relay. Williams, the OVC's indoor freshman of the year, will be in the same four races, while Nelson will run in the hurdles, 55 and 200, as well as the mile relay. Also on the mile relay will be senior Walt Washington.

"With preliminaries on Friday, that means all three will run in seven races," Haines said. "They will sacrifice record times in order to score more points for the team."

Others should challenge for titles, including senior Andrew Lambert from Sikeston in the high jump and long jump.

OVC athletes of the week

Bohnsack, Thomas and Lambert all earned OVC weekly honors for their performances during last Friday's Redhawk Invitational.

Bohnsack won the high jump to capture the women's field award; Thomas won the hurdles to claim the women's track award; and Lambert won both the high jump and long jump to nab the men's field award.

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