The Eastern men’s track and field team took first place at the Ohio Valley Conference Indoor Track and Field championships on Saturday, while the women took second to finish off the indoor season.
The Eastern men edged out Southeast Missouri by six points to win the conference as the women were runner up to Tennessee State, who won the women’s division with 132 points.
Tom Akers, head coach of track and field at Eastern, won the Men’s Coach of the Year honor in the OVC. Akers was proud of the way the men competed at the conference championship meet.
“Considering some of the injuries to some of our top kids and some missing pieces of the puzzle that weren’t there and not being expected to win makes that victory that much sweeter,” he said.
Junior Riley Kittridge won first place honors in the men’s shot put. He was one of the men that impressed Akers.
“Kittredge throwing three feet farther than his personal record in the shot put, that’s a big chunk,” he said. “Not only did he just have one throw, but he had a couple throws so I thought his performance in the shot put was key.”
Akers also recognized junior John Piper for his performance in the 55-meter dash at the OVC championships.
“Piper in the hurdles, he was ranked third coming into the conference championships and he comes out as the champion,” he said.
Akers said the team looked good all around last weekend compared to a few of the meets earlier this year.
“There were times when one group would perform well and another group may not earlier on in the season when we started to go to Notre Dame and Grand Valley,” said. “We would have bits and pieces here and there, but all in all talk about performing across the board in the throws, people coming through in the jumps, sprints, middle distance and the distance and hurdles it was really a team effort.”
Junior Paxson Menard received praise from Akers from beating top competition in the men’s 5000-meter run at the OVC Championships.
“Menard in the 5,000 meters beating the Kenyans from EKU and the favorite from Southeast Missouri,” he said.
The men’s team enjoyed success throughout the season earning second place in the EIU Early Bird, Illini Classic and the EIU Friday Night Special. They won first place in the EIU John Craft invite early in the season. Those were the only meets that featured team results.
The women started the season finishing in third at the EIU Early Bird and the Illini Classic. They responded in the next two scored meets with first-place finishes. The women even finished the first night of the OVC Championships in first place before losing the lead in the second day.
Three women won First Team All-OVC honorees from their performances in the championships. Junior Bryn Buckwalter earned the honor in the shot put, while senior teammate Janie Howse took first in the weight throw. Sophomore Haleigh Knapp earned her honoree in the high jump.
The outdoor season will not begin until March 25, when the teams will head to SIU Carbondale.
Mark Shanahan can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]