Indians, Otahkians plan low-key opener

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Southeast Missouri State University's track and field program, coming off an impressive indoor season, will begin the outdoor campaign today by hosting a four-team meet at the Abe Stuber Complex.

The April Fool's Invitational -- so named because it happened to be contested on April 1 a couple of times in the past -- will, according to coach Joey Haines, be a low-key meet with no team scores kept.

Competing along with Southeast will be NAIA power Lindenwood University from St. Charles, Mo.; Division II Harding (Ark.) University; and Division III Rhodes College from Memphis, Tenn. Field events begin at 11 a.m. with running events starting at noon.

Lindenwood is coached by Jackson High School graduate Lane Lohr, an All-American pole-vaulter at Illinois in the 1980s, and the Lions feature a few local athletes, including Jackson's Stuart McIntosh and Central's Demetrius Totten.

Haines figures the April Fool's Invitational will be a good way to ease into the outdoor season and get ready for the year's first big outdoor meet -- next weekend's 23rd annual Gatorade Classic at the Abe Stuber Complex.

"We're looking forward to getting the outdoor season started, but this won't be a high-powered meet," Haines said. "We let everybody go home over spring break last week and this will kind of let them get back in the swing of things without much pressure.

When you work real hard and have a good indoor season, you have to back away a little bit early in the outdoor season and give them a break."

Southeast's women rolled to the Ohio Valley Conference indoor championship, while the men finished second. And hopes are just as high, if not higher, for the outdoor campaign.

"We think both our teams are actually better outdoors than indoors," Haines said.

Haines said his athletes are already looking forward to the Gatorade Classic, which annually attracts some of the premier athletes in the Midwest. After featuring only about seven or eight teams over the past few seasons, this year's meet is expected to attract as many as 15 or 16 squads.

"That's always our big meet of the year and our athletes get really excited for it," Haines said. "It looks like we'll have our biggest field in quite a while and people should start making their plans to be here for that one."

The Gatorade Classic will primarily take place on April 3, beginning at 11 a.m., although the hammer throw will officially kick off the meet at 5 p.m. on Friday.

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