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Maddie Meyer SIU track athlete

Madison Meyer, a long jumper for SIU's women's track team, competes during the 2017-18 season.

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The Southern Illinois track and field program won six conference titles and broke two school records on the final day at the 2019 Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Championships, hosted by Indiana State.

The women's team finished in second place with 176 points. Southern was just 15 points short of Illinois State's winning total of 191. SIU began the day tied for second with Northern Iowa, but pulled away from the remaining competition due to a slew of victories and All-MVC placements.

"Overall, I thought the women's team fought hard," Director of Track and Field/Cross Country Rosalind Joseph said. "Coming out second is bittersweet because I thought we had a great meet. But I also know we overachieved in terms of rankings, scoring and placing. What's exciting is that all around the track and through every event on the field, our women were getting the job done for a chance at a team title."

On the men's side, the Salukis were in the hunt for a runner-up finish, but ended fourth in the team standings with 125.5 points. Just six points separated second through fourth place.

"The men's team really did a nice job today," Joseph said. "We had some really good things happen today and a lot of these men have been training all year for this meet. To see them get here and perform well was good to see."

Senior's Josh Maier and Bri'Anna Branch managed to stand out on a day where impressive performances were set left and right.

The senior was dominant in distance-action with victories in the 1500-meter run and 5000-meter run.

Maier made history in the MVC, by breaking a 38-year old conference record in the 5K with a time of 14:04.78. It was also a Gibson Track and Field Complex facility record and the eighth-fastest mark in SIU history.

In the 1500m, Maier trailed three runners with just 50-meters remaining. However, he found an extra gear in the last stretch to surpass each opponent and take the title (3:51.75).

"When Josh Maier was coming off the last turn, all I could think was why he couldn't have more eligibility," Joseph said. "You could almost see the moment in the race when he knew he was on pace to break the record. But watching a 38-year old record go down was just amazing. I couldn't think of a more talented, dedicated, hard worker to earn that than Josh."

Branch made her presence known in all four events she competed in on Sunday. She tallied 38 points and became just the second individual in SIU history to earn MVC Most Outstanding Athlete honors.

The native of Chicago, Ill. sprinted to a school-record and winning time of 11.40 in the 100-meter dash. The mark surpassed teammate Tyjuana Eason's former record-time of 11.50 set in 2018. Eason finished runner-up in the today's event with a top-10 school mark of 11.61.

Branch continued her dominance into the 200-meter dash, as she won the event with a time of 23.60. The mark was the third-best in Saluki history. She now holds the second, third and fourth-fastest times in school history. Once again, it was Eason finishing second to Branch with an impressive time of 24.18.

Branch captured her third and final MVC title of the day in the 4x100 relay. She teamed up with Eason, Tredaja Harris and Genesis Ewell to take first at 44.86. The quartet's mark was the third-fastest all-time at SIU.

Madison Meyer delivered a standout performance in the long jump to give Southern it's sixth and final conference crown. Through five jumps and only one remaining, Meyer was slated to place fourth in the finals. But the junior saved her best for last, as she jumped 19'-09.50" (6.03m) to clinch her second Valley title of the weekend. The jump was a PR and the sixth-furthest in school history.

On the weekend, she scored 27 points and was named MVC Most Valuable Athlete at the conclusion of the meet.

In addition to six Salukis who achieved Valley-champion status, several others earned All-MVC honors on the final day of competition.

Ewell and Savannah Long placed second in two events for SIU. Ewell ran a PR and top-10 school mark of 55.00 in the 400-meter dash, while Long earned silver in the 400-meter hurdles (1:00.87).

The pair teamed up with Branch and Eason in the 4x400 relay, where they finished second to the Redbirds with a time of 3:46.75.

Willie Rodgers and Mitchell Bland both earned podium spots in the triple jump. Rodgers took second with a jump of 48'-04.00" (15.08m), while Bland was right behind in third at 48'-00.75" (14.65m). For Bland, it was his first All-MVC honor.

In men's and women's discus competition, Ricky Hurley and Nikki Freeman received medals. Hurley, the defending outdoor champ in the event, took second with a top throw of 170'-06" (51.98m). Freeman claimed third with a best toss of 165'-03" (50.37m). Her throw was just two feet shy of a PR and the second-straight year that she placed top-three in the finals.

SIU's lone women's pole vaulter, Erin Diemer, placed third in the event to earn her first All-MVC outdoor honor. Her height of 11'-11.75" (3.65m) was an outdoor best for the sophomore. She also came in third place at the 2019 MVC Indoor Championships.

Individuals came close to podium finishes as well.

Theo Phipps placed fourth overall in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.51. He tallied 13 points over the weekend for the men's team. Shauniece O'Neal also placed fourth for SIU in the discus with a toss of 163'-10" (49.94m). Finishing behind O'Neal in fifth and sixth were teammates Kayleigh Conlon (157'-07" // 48.04m) and A'veun Moore-Jones (152'-08" // 46.53m)

Saluki newcomer Kira Williams PR'd in the 400m hurdles (1:03.23) to finish fifth overall. In more discus action, freshman thrower Peyton Taylor took fifth with a PR hurl of 165'-07" (50.46m). Harris finished sixth in the women's 100m dash with a time of 11.89, while

In other finals action, Kayla Schiera and Emani James both placed seventh in their respective events. Schiera ran a time of 17:09.54 in the 5K. Her mark was a PR by over 41-second PR and the ninth-fastest in program history. At the conclusion of the meet, she was named MVC Track and Field Freshman of the Year. In the triple jump, James reached on a PR length of 37'-10.50" (11.54m).

The Salukis that qualify for the NCAA West Regional will head to Sacramento, Calif. on May 23 for the three-day regional event.

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Sports reporter

Todd Hefferman has covered SIU athletics since 2008. A University of Iowa grad, he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and a Heisman Trophy voter.

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