Redhawks in role of underdogs in track

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Haines expects his men's and women's teams to chase host Eastern Illinoisthis weekend.

Is Southeast Missouri State's string of Ohio Valley Conference women's track and field titles about to end?

Coach Joey Haines isn't ready to concede anything, but he admits that's a realistic possibility.

Haines said Southeast's women won't be favored when the two-day OVC indoor meet begins Friday in Charleston, Ill.

The Redhawks have won seven straight conference titles, four outdoors and three indoors. The last time they finished out of the top spot came during the league's 2003 indoor meet.

But a combination of graduation, injuries and other setbacks have Haines ranking host Eastern Illinois as the favorite this weekend.

"They will have to help us for us to win, but we're going into it trying to win as hard as we can. They still have to beat us," Haines said. "We've got a really young team and you can't win every time, but the sad thing is our athletes will look at themselves as failures if we get second.

"You want that kind of attitude, but you feel bad for them because they shouldn't feel that way."

On the men's side, host Eastern Illinois will be favored to capture its seventh straight OVC indoor crown.

Southeast's men, who are the two-time conference outdoor champion, were second in last year's indoor meet.

Haines believes the Redhawks' men might have been favored had All-American Miles Smith not suffered a hamstring injury.

Smith won the 200 and 400-meter runs at last year's OVC indoor, while leading the victorious 1,600 relay team.

"If we had Miles, I would feel pretty comfortable," Haines said. "We're the underdog without Miles, but I think it's going to be close. We'll be in the running."

No matter what happens this weekend, Haines believes both Southeast teams will be primed to defend their OVC outdoor titles in May.

"We're a better team outdoors," he said. "A lot of the outdoor events are ones we're better in, and we'll have Miles and some other injured athletes back."

Baseball home debut

The Southeast baseball team, coming off a season-opening series win at Jackson State, plays its first home game Friday.

Southeast (2-1) and South Dakota State (3-3) will begin a three-game series with a 2 p.m. contest at Capaha Field.

The squads will play 1 p.m. games Saturday and Sunday.

Southeast features a retooled roster with 19 newcomers among its 33 players.

"We're looking forward to getting our home schedule started," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "We've got a lot of exciting new players along with some solid veterans, and I think our fans will enjoy watching this ballclub."

The Redhawks were on the verge of their first 3-0 start since 2001, as they swept a doubleheader Saturday at Jackson State and led 10-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning of Sunday's series finale before the Tigers rallied for a 12-10 victory.

"It was disappointing to lose that way, but I saw a lot of encouraging things over the weekend," Hogan said.

South Dakota State, which lost two of three at Southeast last year, is off to a solid start.

The Jackrabbits posted a 6-5 win over defending Big 12 Conference tournament champion Kansas, while dropping 3-2 and 4-1 decisions to the Jayhawks. They also won two of three at Sacramento State.

"They've got a talented ballclub and they'll be a very good test for us," Hogan said.

Softball opens season

After having its scheduled season-opening tournament wiped out by bad weather, the Southeast softball team should be able to finally play its first games this week.

The Redhawks, who were slated to participate in the Tennessee-Martin Hospitality House Classic this past weekend, will take part in the Blues City Classic in Southaven, Miss. Memphis is the host school.

Southeast opens tournament play against Memphis at 1 p.m. Friday.

The Redhawks also face Alabama A&M Friday, then Saturday they take on Evansville and Central Arkansas before Sunday's bracket play.

Gymnasts at home

The Southeast women's gymnastics team will have its annual Outback Steakhouse meet Saturday when Texas Women's University visits Houck Field House for a 7 p.m. competition.

Earlier Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., there will be a luncheon at Outback Steakhouse where fans have the opportunity to dine with Southeast's coaches and athletes, with proceeds going toward the gymnastics program.

The cost of the luncheon is $30 for two tickets. For information, call (573) 651-2604.

Southeast (10-3) has suffered two straight losses to squads ranked among the national top 25, including Saturday's home setback to No. 19 BYU. Southeast is No. 31.

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