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Southeast anxious to begin season at Arkansas State Invitationa
The Southeast Missouri State University track and field program opens its indoor season today with the Arkansas State Invitational -- and the teams are more than ready for action.
"We've been training since August. Nobody else practices this long without a game or a competition. They're really ready to go," Southeast coach Joey Haines said.
Haines said Southeast's distance runners, who recently finished the cross country season, won't compete today, but most everybody else will be available in the annual meet at Jonesboro, Ark., that figures to feature rugged competition.
"It's usually a strong meet and it should be a good way to get our indoor season started," said Haines, noting that Mississippi and Memphis are among the schools competing.
Haines, Southeast's coach since 1982, expects another big year for his program. The women swept the Ohio Valley Conference last year, winning both the indoor and outdoor titles, while the men were second in both conference meets.
With both the women and men returning many of their top competitors from last season along with several talented newcomers, Southeast should again be poised to make its mark in the OVC.
"Everybody has been working extremely hard, and we look for another good year," Haines said. "The women are stronger than last year, and the men are a whole lot better."
In fact, Haines believes the women are so solid that standout senior thrower Heather Jenkins likely will redshirt this season after recently having knee surgery. That would allow her to be totally healthy for her final collegiate campaign next year.
Jenkins, a Central High School product, was the OVC's co-female track athlete of the year the past two seasons.
"Heather's had pain the last couple of years and was probably never 100 percent," Haines said. "Having a strong team, it allows us to do that and hopefully get Heather 100 percent to get her ready for a big final season."
In addition to considerable returning talent, Haines said the women will be bolstered by the addition of two standout freshmen who were both nationally ranked high school athletes last year.
Kathy Coleman, a sprinter/hurdler/jumper, is a multiple state champion and all-stater from Gateway Tech High School in St. Louis, while Donnice Parrish is a sprinter and multiple all-stater from Hazelwood Central High School in suburban St. Louis.
"They are two really outstanding freshmen girls, probably the best we've ever recruited," Haines said.
On the men's side, in addition to plenty of returning talent, a major addition is senior thrower Brian Knippen, who transferred from Murray State. He figures to help fill in nicely for graduated throws standout Jay Heddell.
"He finished second in the OVC shot put the last three years behind Jay," Haines said.
Added Haines of the men's squad: "We have a lot of speed this year. We're really fast, faster than we've been in a long time, probably since the 1984 team that was really loaded with speed."
Following today's meet, Southeast competes at Southern Illinois-Carbondale on Dec. 11, then has several weeks off before resuming its schedule in January. The only indoor home meet is Feb. 18 at the Student Recreation Center, with the OVC indoor championships set for Feb. 25-26 in Charleston, Ill.
"Everything we do all year is geared toward building for the OVC meet," Haines said.