Men, women finish 3rd at OVC Championship

Alex Hartman, Track and Field Reporter


Eastern’s track and field teams were unable to repeat as winners at the OVC Championships this weekend in Lantz Fieldhouse as the men finished in second with 124 points while the women moved up a four spots from the end of day one to earn third place with a score of 78 points.

The first place team for the men was Eastern Kentucky and for the women it was Tennessee Tech.

“The team really competed well, and we knew it was going to be a battle to score points, and in the end the EKU distance team put them above us,” coach Tom Akers said. “The women’s team really battled, and moving up to the third place spot is a compliment to their competitiveness.”

It was not the finishes they were looking for coming off a great prior meet, but the coaches were pleased with the hard work and determination the team displayed.

On day one of the meet, Eastern got out of the gates sluggishly at first, and then senior high jumper Haleigh Knapp once again won first place, this time with a height of 5-feet-8.75.

She had already earned OVC Field Athlete of the Year a few days before, and is currently sitting in 14th place in the country in the event. The top 16 qualify for the NCAA National Championship meet in early March.

“I wanted to finish with a better mark, but a win is great. It is really exciting that this is my fourth consecutive OVC indoor high jump title, and that I am currently qualified for nationals, but anything can happen in the next few days,” Haleigh Knapp said.

The second day saw some improvement for the men and women’s teams for Eastern, as both the men and women’s teams earned three first place finishes. Leading finishers were senior Brion Portis, earning first in the triple jump and Darneisha Spann, in the 60-meter hurdles. Then for the men, freshman Tadiwa Mhonde earned first in the 60-meter dash.

There were numerous silver and bronze place finishes for Eastern in day two that kept them in contention a well. Graduate student Ryan Pearce was experiencing his first Division I conference championships and earned a silver medal in the shot put with a throw of 55-03.25 feet.

“I am really revved-up to show conference what I got. D1 is more challenging, but the competition makes me better,” Pearce said.

After a first place home performance last week, the woman’s 4×400 followed it up with a second place finish in the OVC Championship. The team of junior Pedra Hicks, senior Stephanie Dominguez, senior Darneisha Spann and junior Shirley Jones, were runner up to a Lantz Fieldhouse record set by the first place Tennessee Tech squad.

“I was personally super excited for the 4×400, we had a great race at Notre Dame that placed us second in conference, and if our hand-offs get a little better, we are confident we can get first,” Stephanie Dominguez said.

The meet ended with Eastern Kentucky’s coach Rick Erdman being named men’s Coach of the Year and Tennessee Tech’s coach Wayne Angel named women’s Coach of the Year.

The next time the team will compete is in the outdoor track and field season, which will begin on March 23 at Southern Illinois Carbondale.

Alex Hartman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]