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Redhawks sweep OVC meet titles
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. -- Southeast Missouri State coach Joey Haines knew his women would have to overcome a slew of injuries and his men would have to overcome Eastern Illinois' dynasty in order to sweep the Ohio Valley Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Mission accomplished on both counts as the two-day meet concluded Saturday.
Southeast's women continued their domination of the OVC with their third consecutive outdoor title, to go along with two straight indoor crowns. They have won eight OVC championships since joining the league in 1991.
Southeast's men, after finishing second both outdoors and indoors behind Eastern Illinois the past two years, finally ended the Panthers' eight-year outdoor reign.
"It's not easy to win both the men's and women's titles in the same year," said Haines, whose program was the last in the OVC to accomplish that feat, in 1995. "It was just a great weekend for us.
"The last few years, the hardest thing for us was to get on the same bus after the meet. It's really hard when you have 25 women who just won the conference championship and 25 men who just got second and are disappointed. To see how happy everybody was is really satisfying."
Southeast's women scored 154 points to ease past Eastern Illinois (119) and Tennessee State (117).
"So many [injured] people weren't here. If we were healthy, it wouldn't have been close," Haines said. "We had so many people come through and step up, who we might not normally have counted on.
"It wasn't a lock on the women's side, which makes it extra satisfying."
After narrowing the gap on Eastern Illinois in recent years, Southeast's men finally prevailed with 220.5 points, to 211.5 for the Panthers. Third-place Eastern Kentucky (105) was well off the pace.
"We're really happy," Haines said. "Eastern Illinois was favored, but it was one of those things where everybody did what they had to do. Everybody stepped up."
Brooke Woodruff was Southeast's only women's individual winner Saturday, placing first in the 1,500 meters (4 minutes, 30.49 seconds). Woodruff had previously won the 800 the past two outdoor championships, but finished third in the event Saturday (2:11.72).
"Brooke had never run the 1,500 in conference, but we needed the points," Haines said. "She won the event, and it cost her the 800, which she had never lost in conference, but she did what was best for the team. That's the kind of sacrifice we had from so many people."
The women also won the 400 relay (46.23). Team members were Meleisa Greene, Donniece Parrish, LaQuita Andrews and Kathy Coleman.
Second-place finishes went to Jen Burke in the 800 (2:11.66) and Parrish in the 200 (24.31). Parrish also finished third in the 100 (12.05), while Coleman was third in the 100 hurdles (14.90). Coleman, a freshman, won the long jump Friday with a school-record performance.
Southeast's men won six more titles Saturday, to go along with three Friday, as the Redhawks captured nine of the 19 events, compared to five for Eastern Illinois.
Brian Knippen, who won the shot put and finished second in the javelin Friday, picked up another win in Saturday's discus (158-6). Knippen was named the athlete of the championship on the men's side, after he had previously been named the league's indoor and outdoor field athlete of the year.
Alonzo Nelson also had a big day for the Redhawks, winning the 110 hurdles (14.76) and 400 hurdles (51.52). Miles Smith picked up Southeast's other individual win, in the 400 (46.98).
"Alonzo Nelson had a great meet," Haines said.
The Redhawks also won the 400 relay (40.86) and the 1,600 relay (3:10.88). The 400 group consisted of Jon Jefferson, Smith, Seth Schuster and Chris Poindexter, while the 1,600 group featured Nelson, Poindexter, Chaz Brown and Smith.
Matt Jett was second in the pole vault (14-1 1/4), Brown was second in the 800 (1:51.45) and Brian Whitehead finished second in the 5,000 (15:12.06). Haines said Whitehead's performance late in the meet was a key to holding off the Panthers.
Explained Haines: "It pretty much came down to the 5,000, the next to last event. We pretty much knew we'd win the 1,600, and we pretty much knew they'd be second or third. We had a seven-point lead going into the 5,000, and they had two guys favored ahead of Brian. But Brian got second and beat both of their guys, which allowed us to keep the margin."
Placing third were Smith in the 200 (21.33) and Daniel Jones in the discus (157-1 3/4).
"And we had so many other athletes for the men and women who weren't in the top three, but scored valuable points," Haines said. "We knew it had to really be a total team effort on both sides to win, and that's what we got."
Haines also received two more OVC coach of the year awards, bringing his career total to 17.