EIU men’s track team takes first at OVC Indoor Track & Field Championships


Rob Le Cates | The Daily Eastern News

Members of the Eastern track team compete in the men’s mile at the John Craft Invitational on Jan. 15, 2022 in the Lantz Field House. Eastern’s Jamie Marcos (3) finished the race with a time of 4:12.83, placing first out of 18 runners.

Kate Stevens, Assistant Sports Editor

EIU’s men’s track took first place in the OVC Indoor Track & Field Championships for the first time since the 2019-2020 at the two-day meet in Birmingham, Ala.

The meet was held Wednesday into Thursday and both Eastern’s men’s and women’s team had success throughout. The women’s team placed 5th overall. 

Between the men’s and women’s teams, EIU had 9 total athletes place in the top three for their respective events.

For the men, Jaime Marcos finished off a strong collegiate career as he won Male Track Athlete of the Year and co-OVC Athlete of the Championships.

He took first in the men’s 5k run and for the men’s 3000 meter run, he took second place. 

Eastern’s Jaime Marcos competes in the 8K race at the EIU Walt Crawford Open on Sept. 3 at the Tom Woodall Panther Trail. Marcos placed first individually and the Panthers also won the meet as a team. (Robert Le Cates | The Daily Eastern News)

Leo Warbington was a finalist for the 60 meter hurdles after the first day. He said it was a great feeling for him to be able to contribute to the team’s first place win.

“Qualifying for finals was a great feeling because I was honestly having doubts of whether I even made it to the conference roster,” Warbington said. “To not only make it, but contribute to a championship as well was definitely a great feeling.”

He said going into the meet he was ready and excited to compete, but was ready to get things done. 

“Going into the meet, I was excited, yet hungry and motivated at the same time,” Warbington said. “Meets like this are always meant to be fun, but at the same time we had business to handle, so I was pumped to get started and fight for a championship.”

Warbington also said he can barely explain how it feels to be a part of the championship team.

“Being a part of a winning team is so unbelievable that I honestly can’t describe it,” Warbington said. “In moments like this, you really think about all the hard work everyone on this team put in starting in August when we first got back to campus. To watch all of it pay off right in front of us brings me nothing but joy.”

Riley Baker had a big meet for the Panthers as he finished first in the 400 meter race and third in the 60 meter hurdles. He said it was amazing to be able to sweep the 400 meter race alongside Josiah Neal and Ricky Johnson who took second and third respectively. 

“It was such an amazing feeling to win the 400,” Baker said. “Us three knew that we were more than capable of sweeping the podium, it was just a matter of how bad we wanted it.”

Baker said going into the meet he had mixed emotions, but at the end of the day he was taking it all in as it was his last indoor season. 

“I had so many emotions going through my head before the meet,” Baker said. “I knew we had a great shot at winning as a team, but it was going to be a battle to the end because of Little Rock and SEMO. This is my last indoor season too, so I was trying to soak it all in and just enjoy the moment.”

He said he was excited to place in different events in front of his family, teammates, and coaches was something he’ll take with him for the rest of his life.

“I’ve been wanting to run the 60 hurdles since I got to EIU and I finally got the chance this year, so being able to go out and place third for my team was awesome,” Baker said. “Winning the 400 and the 4×4 was amazing as well. Looking up into the stands and seeing my family, teammates, and coaches cheering loud for me were moments I will remember when I look back on my career.” 

Baker said that this championship felt the best out of all of the ones he had been a part of at EIU. 

“I told the team after the meet that I’ve been a part of multiple championships at EIU, but this one felt the best,” Baker said. “Our team has battled so much adversity the past year and a half, so to come out on top pays testament to all of our hard work and commitment to our craft and each other.”

Both Warbington and Baker said they were more than happy to see coach Keith Roberts take the OVC Coach of the Year award.

“I was happy to see coach Rob win Coach of the Year,” Warbington said. “He’s been battling a lot of adversity and despite all of that, he works very hard and genuinely cares for his athletes. I was very proud of him, but wasn’t surprised one bit.”

“Seeing coach Roberts win Coach of the Year was absolutely incredible,” Baker said. “He works incredibly hard day in and day out to provide our team with everything we need to be successful, so to see all that work get recognized was amazing. There was no one more deserving this year of that award than him and I am beyond proud of him and everything he has done.”

For the women, Zakiya Johnson was a finalist for the 400 meter run after the first day. She said she earned herself a personal record with a time of 57.30. 

“It was a weight off my shoulders once I qualified because sometimes that’s the hardest part,” Johnson said. “I was proud of myself for PR-ing and knew that going into day two, half the battle was done, so I just had to show up and do my best once the gun went off for my heat.”

She said she was nervous going into the first day of the meet and that after the races are done, waiting for the results is just as nerve-wracking.

“It’s almost like everyone is holding their breath until the results come out and you make it to finals, but at the same time I was excited to put all my training to work and show why I deserved to be there,” Johnson said. “It was a full circle moment because there I was trying to encourage the freshmen and let them know it was just another meet even though when I was in their shoes, this meet was the most intimidating of the season. It’s funny what experience can do for the nerves.”

Johnson said she is proud of the way the team supported each other throughout the meet and throughout the year.

“We are always screaming at the top of our lungs for whoever’s on the line even if we were tired, even if we didn’t do the best ourselves,” Johnson said. “This team has a lot of heart and this week we made sure to give a piece of that to each athlete that was about to run. I would also say that everyone went out there and did their absolute best regardless of the nerves. I was extremely proud of every single athlete giving their all this week to show up for not only themselves, but for the team.”

She is excited to move onto outdoor track so that she can finish her collegiate career on a good note.

“Moving on to outdoor, I’m ready to work 15 times harder so that I can hit my goal times and can end my collegiate track and field career knowing I put everything I had into it,” Johnson said. “I know the rest of the women are also motivated to go harder because we all saw how close we were to 2nd place overall. With that fire lit under us, the rest of the OVC should watch out because I truly believe that this group of girls can do anything we put our minds to.”

Akiya Kollore had two first place finishes in the 200 meter dash and the 60 meter hurdles. She ended up setting the EIU indoor 200 meter race record as she ran a 24.20. She said she came into the meet to get things done, not focused on any particular record.

Eastern sophomores Akiya Kollore (right) and Shanisa Stinson jump side-by-side while competing in the women’s 100 meter hurdles at the EIU Big Blue Classic held at O’Brien Field on April 1. Kollore placed first with a time of 14.21 and Stinson came second at 14.33. (Adam Tumino)

“Going into the meet I wasn’t nervous or anything,” Kollore said. “I just knew I had to make it to finals. I went into it knowing anything could happen; just kept focus on my race.”

She said she went into each dash just as she does each time.

“I just executed my race like I knew how,” Kollore said. “I got out the blocks and continued my speed throughout the race.”

She said she is proud of the men for winning their 19th championship and proud of herself for leaving the meet with two gold medals. She said she takes the same mindset with her as the outdoor season opens up next month.

“I’m going into outdoor with the same mindset,” Kollore said. “Execute my race. Get out and just remember anything can happen, so focus on my own race and not those around me.”

EIU will travel to Albuquerque, NM, for the NCAA Indoor Championships on March 10-11.

The outdoor season will begin at Eastern for the annual EIU Big Blue Classic on March 24-25.


List of men’s and women’s athletes, their events, and where they placed:

Athlete Event Place
Riley Baker 400m Race 1st
Riley Baker 60m Hurdles 3rd
Riley Baker, Adam Swanson, Josiah Neal, Elijah Robertson 4x400m Relay 1st
Adam Swanson 800m Run 1st
Adam Swanson 1600m Run 3rd
Jaime Marcos 5k Run 1st
Jaime Marcos 3000m Run 2nd
Josiah Neal 400m Race 2nd
Ricky Johnson 400m Race 3rd
Ricky Johnson 200m Dash 2nd
Elijah Skutt Men’s High Jump 2nd
Ramsey Hunt Men’s Long Jump 1st
Akiya Kollore 200m Dash 1st
Akiya Kollore 60m Hurdles 1st