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Otahkians aim for OVC crown
Southeast Missouri State University track and field coach Joey Haines anticipates big performances from his athletes as the Ohio Valley Conference Indoor Championships are held this weekend in Charleston, Ill.
Competition will begin at 3 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday on the Eastern Illinois University campus.
While Haines expects Southeast's improved men's team to contend for a high finish, he looks for nothing less than a championship from the women's squad.
"We'll be very disappointed if we don't win," Haines said. "Going in, on the form sheet, we have the people to get it done. As coaches, we're putting the pressure on ourselves to be the favorite. Now we have to go do it."
Southeast's women finished a narrow second behind Tennessee State last year but the Otahkians rebounded to decisively capture the OVC outdoor title. The Otahkians last won the league's indoor crown in 2000.
"We're pumped, ready to go," said junior Heather Jenkins, a standout in the weight throws. "I think we have a really good chance to win."
Jenkins, a Central High School graduate, figures to be one of the leaders for the Otahkians as she shared both the indoor and outdoor athlete of the meet awards last year. She is the defending indoor shot put and 20-pound weight throw champion. She holds the conference record in the 20-pound weight throw and will be looking to improve on her NCAA provisional qualifying mark.
"I think I'm peaking at the right time," Jenkins said. "My goal is to make it to nationals and hopefully I can get there."
The Otahkians' only other defending champion is sophomore Brooke Woodruff (800 meters), but they have four returning individual second-place finishers in senior Lyndsey Stevenson (60 hurdles), senior Kaci Pilcher (1,600), senior Megan Youse (20-pound weight throw) and sophomore Michele Jett (pole vault). The 1,600 relay was also second.
"We're pretty healthy and I think we're ready to perform very well," Haines said.
Stevenson, who set a school record in the hurdles during last Friday's Southeast Invitational, added, "I think we have a good chance. We've been competing well and we're ready to go."
On the men's side, Southeast surprised some people by finishing third last season, and the Indians went on to place second outdoors.
While Eastern Illinois -- which has claimed the past three indoor crowns and six of the last seven -- will be difficult to beat, Haines isn't ruling out a surprise run at the title if everything breaks right. The Indians' last -- and only -- OVC indoor crown came in 1996.
"Our men are very improved this year," Haines said. "Eastern Illinois is the favorite and Eastern Kentucky probably has their best team in a long time, but this is probably our best team since we won it."
The Indians have two defending champions in senior Jay Heddell (shot put) and sophomore Jordan Willi (pole vault). Heddell will try to make it a clean sweep of the indoor shot put during his impressive career as he won titles as a freshman, sophomore and junior.
Indians golf team places fourth at opening event
Southeast Missouri State University's golf team got off to a strong start in the spring season, tying for fourth out of 17 teams at the Pizza Hut Classic in Philadelphia, Miss., on Monday.
The tournament was scheduled for two rounds but just one round was played due to bad weather.
The Indians finished at 305 to tie with Southern Illinois. The top three were Rhodes College (289), IUPUI (302) and William & Mary (303).
Southeast freshman Zack Decker tied for fourth among 89 players as he shot even-par 72.
Also for the Indians, Mark Schmitz tied for 14th (76), Brian Sheehan tied for 30th (78), Brandon Couch tied for 38th (79), Kent Phillips and Nathan Sprague tied for 67th (85), and Matt Litzelfelner tied for 76th (88).