Southeast expands field for its 23rd annual meet

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Fifteen schools to provide teams for this weekend's track and field meet.

By Marty Mishow

Southeast Missourian

Southeast Missouri State University's biggest home track and field meet figures to provide even more punch than usual this weekend.

According to Southeast coach and meet director Joey Haines, the 23rd annual Gatorade Classic should feature its strongest field in some time.

"I think it's the best field we've had in the last six, seven, eight years, and the most teams," Haines said. "It's really going to be an outstanding meet."

All but one of the events will be held Saturday at the Abe Stuber Complex, although the meet officially begins at 4 p.m. Friday with the hammer throw. Saturday's events begin at 11 a.m. Pepsi Mid-America is the corporate sponsor.

Fifteen schools, encompassing 13 men's team's and 13 women's teams, are scheduled to participate, making the field the largest it has been in several years.

"The whole meet is going to be really good," said Haines, who has been involved in the event for 22 of its 23 years. "I feel like every event will be won by a regional qualifying standard. Just to get in the top six in a lot of events you might have to have a regional qualifying standard. And that's great for our athletes, because we'll really be pushed."

Southeast won two of the three team titles last year, capturing the women's and combined championships. Memphis was the men's winner. In 2002, Southeast swept all three titles.

Haines looks for his squads to perform well again this weekend, but he knows they are not a lock to win championships because of the stiffer competition.

"Southern Illinois has been away for a year or so, but they're back and they're always very strong. Illinois State and Western Illinois will add a great deal," Haines said. "We've got some of the strongest teams in the Missouri Valley Conference here with SIU, Illinois State and Southwest Missouri."

Haines expects his men and women to challenge for titles, as well as the combined crown. He thinks Memphis, SIU and Illinois State will also field strong men's teams, while SIU, Illinois State and Southwest Missouri should be among the top women's contenders.

"Our athletes always compete well at home," he said. "We always get good crowds, families and friends can come watch, and our athletes always look forward to competing at home."

Junior thrower Heather Jenkins, a Central High School graduate, won three Gatorade Classic titles last year, capturing the shot put, discus and hammer throw. She said competing at home is always great motivation.

"I'm excited about the meet, especially since it's going to be the biggest home meet since I've been here and there is supposed to be some really good competition," said Jenkins, who met regional qualifying standards in the shot and discus during Saturday's outdoor opener. "Being at home, we really want to win as a team."

Said senior Lyndsey Stevenson, the defending champion in the 100-meter hurdles, "It's always exciting to compete at home because a lot of students and families can come out. There's always a lot of extra motivation being at home. We really want to do well."

Sophomore pole-vaulter Michele Jett is Southeast's other defending champion. Southeast's men have no defending champions, but Haines expects several Indians to compete for titles.

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