|Last weekend, the best indoor track and field athletes in the Sun Belt Conference gathered at the Murphy Center for the 2012 SBC Indoor Track and Field Championships.
For the first time since 2004, the MTSU women’s team walked away with the championship. Each of them looked to pick up a conference title and maybe even a berth into the 2012 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships which will take place in Idaho on March 9 and 10. Per usual, several MTSU men’s and women’s athletes brought the home crowd to its feet with several event wins during the weekend.
As for the ladies, it was a lot closer and it came down to the final race, the 4x400 meter relay. Coming into the race, the Lady Raiders were only two points behind North Texas in the overall race for the SBC. In the race, the Blue Raiders team of Amber Jackson, France Makabu, Christal Wilson and Kiara Henry finished second, while the Mean Green was fourth. MTSU won the women’s title by a single point, 108 to 107.
“It’s a really big honor for us,” Jackson said during the awards ceremony. “Everybody did their best today, and each one pulled its weight to help us win the title.”
Western Kentucky dominated the men’s competition going away with the Blue Raiders finishing second.
MTSU got things started in the field events thanks to key performances by several of the competitors, but sophomore Cordairo Golden and junior Ann Dudley proved why they were two of the best in the SBC this season. This weekend was no different as both took home conference titles.
For Golden, he showed why he is the best jumper in the SBC by sweeping the long and triple jump. However, he had to come-from-behind each time, but he came through in the clutch. First on Saturday during the long jump, Golden needed a big last jump just to qualify for the finals. On that jump, he nailed a mark of 7.46 meters, which was the best in the SBC this season. He barely edged Arkansas State sophomore William Oliver, who had a jump of 7.45 m, a few jumps earlier.
“When he did his big thing, I felt like it was my turn now,” Golden said after Saturday’s win. “That was a big motivator for me.” He was his first individual SBC title.
On Sunday during the triple jump, Golden was in the same position in the prelims and needed a big mark to qualify for the finals.
He fouled on his first two attempts, but on his third he once again came through in the clutch with a jump of 15.99 m. His previous season-best was 15.32 m during the MTSU Valentine Invitational meet a couple weeks ago. The SBC best coming into the meet was by Florida International junior Aubrey Smith was a 15.47m mark. He fed off the home crowd’s energy and Golden said it helped him pick up both SBC titles over the weekend.
“Family and friends came out and supported my teammates and I,” Golden said after Sunday’s win. “It was a motivator for me to do my best.”
On the women’s side, Blue Raider junior Ann Dudley won another high jump title on Saturday by clearing the height of 1.77 m. It was her sixth win in the event this season, including a perfect five-for-five in indoor meets held inside the Murphy Center in 2012. She also spent Saturday competing in the five-event pentathlon, in which she had an overall finish of fourth.
“It was a very busy (Saturday) day,” Dudley said before receiving her medals on Sunday. “I was tired and wore out, but I wanted to help my team win a conference championship.” She added she stayed at the Murphy Center that day from 7 a.m. to 9:30 that night.
On Sunday, she finished fifth in the 55 m hurdles event.
It was fast and furious on the track at the Murphy Center upstairs area. The races were close and down to the wire. The Blue Raiders had terrific performance in the racing events. Sophomore Kenneth Gilstrap and freshman Drayton Calhoun proved why they were the fastest men in the SBC this indoor season with a one-two finish in the 55-meter race. These two share a special bond that dates all the way back to when they started track together as children.
“We push each other, and he makes me better,” Gilstrap said after finishing fifth in the 200. “We always want the best for each other.” It is the sophomore’s, who also plays for the Blue Raider football team, earned his second consecutive SBC title in the 55.
Lady Raider freshman distance runner Lucy Kapkiai pulled off a huge victory in the longest race of the meet, the 5000. That win gave MTSU a chance to win the overall SBC title for the first time since 2004.
The next meet for the Blue Raiders is the Last Chance Invitational on March 3 at Ames, Iowa.