Middle Tennessee State University sprinter Asa Bowman outpaces the competition at a meet earlier this season. (Photo courtesy of ETSU/L. Smith)
The MTSU men’s and women’s indoor track and field teams are hoping for another title starting with the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships that start Sunday, Feb. 24, on the campus of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Ark.
The Lady Raiders are hoping for their second conference title in a row, while the men are going for their third in five seasons. This is their last indoor Sun Belt meet for the MTSU program, as they are moving to Conference USA next season.
Longtime head coach Dean Hayes said he likes the chances for both teams this weekend.
“The women hope to defend the title they won last year, which is a positive,” Hayes said. “The men won at ASU two years ago, so they hope to do that again. We are probably one of the teams that have a realistic chance to win the title in both divisions, so we should be positive about that.”
Last year, the Lady Raiders used their the home track advantage at the Murphy Center to come from behind in the team standings and defeat North Texas by a single point to win the Sun Belt title.
Two of the heros from that meet are back. Senior jumper Ann Dudley and sophomore distance runner Lucy Kapkiai will once again lead the charge for a repeat performance.
“For MTSU to win the title, the women have to scrap for every point because I think the race will be very close, just like last year,” Hayes said. “We do not have any events where we really score loads of points.
So far this season, Dudley has won the high jump in four meets. Her highest jump was during the Rod McCravy Memorial in January, with a mark of 5 feet, 10.75 inches, which placed her in the runner-up position. It was the biggest high jump by a female athlete in the conference this season.
In the 2012 finals meet, Dudley won the high jump with mark of 5-9.75.
The Lady Raiders also turned to Kapkiai in the 5,000 meter event to earn some valuable points to get back in the team competition. Well, Kapkiai won the event, and she helped MTSU win the title.
“She was very big for us last year,” Hayes said.
This season, she is a year older and wiser, and could be a factor for MTSU in the distance events.
As for the men, the last two times the Sun Belt championship meets were held Jonesboro in 2009 and 2011, the Blue Raiders wound up the conference champions. This year’s meet will be on the same track.
Last season, MTSU finished second to Western Kentucky in the final team standings at the finals held here at home.
Two Blue Raiders to watch for are junior jumper Cordairo Golden and senior sprinter Noah Akwu.
At last year’s finals, Golden won the long and high jump. So far, this season Golden has won the high jump at one meet, triple jump in three meets and finished runner-up in the long jump at four meets.
He also has the Sun Belt’s top triple jump this season with a mark of 50-10.25 at the Valentine Invitational held earlier this month.
As for Akwu, he has one of the top sprinters in the conference this season in the 55 and 200 meter events. And last summer, he competed for his native Nigeria at the London Olympics.
“His leadership is important,” Hayes said.
This season, Akwu has the top spot in the 200 meters with a time of 20.91 seconds.
“We must get solid performances in the jumps and distances to go with our speed events,” Hayes said.
Action starts today at 10 a.m., and it will conclude tomorrow with events beginning at 9 a.m.