With one week until the 2017 Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Championships, the Southern Illinois track and field team will close out the regular season today at the Ole Miss Classic, hosted by the University of Mississippi.
The Salukis were originally scheduled to attend the Billy Hayes Invitational, hosted by Indiana University. However, with rain and wind in the forecast across much of the midwest this weekend, Director of Track and Field/Cross Country Kathleen Raske was able to get 24 student-athletes registered to compete in Oxford, Mississippi.
"We changed (from the Billy Hayes Invitational) to try and give our kids a chance to qualify for the NCAA West Regional," Raske said. "We know that the weather forecast in Oxford, Miss. is suppose to be great this weekend and that the competition will be great as well."
While athletes can still qualify for the NCAA West Regional at next week's MVC Outdoor Championships, it will become increasingly more difficult for them to do so in multiple events. Hence why Raske and her staff have dubbed the Ole Miss Classic as a last chance to qualify for some athletes.
Nineteen Salukis set personal-bests at last week's Lenny Lyles-Clark Wood Invitational. Southern's throwers set nine of the 19 personal-bests, led by Jared Kern, Isaac Ingram, Kyle Kling and Sian Person.
Kern is the reigning MVC Field Athlete of the Week after he was the top-collegiate finisher in the shot put at the Lenny Lyles-Clark Wood Invitational. In doing so, he broke a three-year old meet record with a heave of 63'-2.25" (19.26m). The 2017 NCAA Indoor All-American is ranked third in the NCAA West Region, and eighth in the NCAA, in the shot put.
Ingram set PRs in the shot put and hammer throw. Ingram threw 54'-4" (16.56m) in the shot, and followed with a toss of 197'-0" (60.06m) in the hammer. He now ranks ninth in school history, and 46th in the NCAA West Region, in the hammer throw.
Kling cracked the top-10 in school history in his second event after doing so in the discus at the Gibson Invitational on April 15. He took third in the shot with a throw of 58'-8" (17.88m), which was the 10th-longest throw in school history, and the 35th-best in the NCAA West Region.
Person tied her career-best in the shot with a mark of 46'-2.5" (14.08m) to take ninth, while the women's 4x100 relay squad of Mystique Thompson, Shafiqua Maloney, Tyjuana Eason and Bri'Anna Branch won the event by running the first sub :45 second quarter mile in Lenny Lyles-Clark Wood Invitational history. It bested the previous meet record of 45.37, set by Cincinnati last year and is the fastest time in school history.
Saluki alums Josh Freeman, Jeneva (McCall) Stevens, DeAnna Price and Gwen Berry are also slated to throw at the Ole Miss Classic.
Freeman comes into the event ranked 15th in the world in the shot put after throwing 68'-7.25" (20.91m) at the Kansas Relays, while Stevens ranks eighth in the world in the shot with her indoor mark of 60'-10" (18.54m).
Berry, meanwhile, has been on a tear this season, as she broke Brittany Riley's decade-old world and American records in the weight throw on her final throw at the USATF Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico and currently has the top hammer throw in the world at 244'-10" (74.62m). Price ranks sixth in the world in the hammer with her toss of 236'-7" (72.12m).
Competition at the Ole Miss Classic begins Saturday morning with the men's hammer throw, men's javelin and women's high jump at 11 a.m. Running events start at 2 p.m.