BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – “We let the bridle off the horses.”
That was the statement from McNeese track and field head coach Brendon Gilroy after his runners dominated the men’s 3,000-meters by taking four of the top five places, picking up 25 points in the process and securing second place at the 2017 Southland Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships here Thursday afternoon.
It’s the highest finish since the very first league indoor meet, 1980, when the Cowboys also placed second.
The Cowboys racked up 120 total points, a school record for an indoor meet, and won a total of six gold medals in the two-day event, also a school record.
In addition, distance runner Nathan Jones was presented the league’s Men’s High Point Scorer Award after collecting 20 total points by winning gold in both the 5,000-meters on Wednesday and the 3,000-meters on Thursday.
He’s jus the second Cowboy athlete to receive the award (David Rooney in 2013).
Overall, McNeese possessed seven team gold medals at the meet, tying the school record of seven won in 1999.
The Cowgirls finished with a respectable sixth place position with 44 total points and just 11 points outside the top five.
“We had a lot of athletes step up and rise to the challenge,” said Gilroy. “The team, as a whole, was full of support for everyone.”
McNeese’s men entered the day in first place in the team standings but were quickly taken over by Sam Houston State, the 2017 champions, once the sprint finals began.
However, the Cowboys got gold medal performances by John Lemke in the triple jump with a personal record mark of 51-2.25, and Christoph Graf in the mile run at 4:11.86, to put them in reach of overtaking Stephen F. Austin for second place.
They needed the horses to run in the 3,000-meters to have a chance.
Led by Jones, who clocked a PR of 8:17.77 to win the event, McNeese racked up 25 points in the event to take over second place. Oliver James won a bronze medal with a third place time of 8:19.16, also a PR, while Graf placed fourth with a time of 8:23.02 and Enrique Soto was fifth at 8:23.46.
McNeese followed that by running the fastest time in the 4×400-meter relay under Gilroy’s watch with a fifth place showing and a time of 3:16.50.
SHSU won the men’s title with 142.50 points followed by McNeese at 120. SFA finished third with 117.50.
On the women’s side, Nicole Casper became the first Cowgirl pole vaulter to win gold at the league indoor meet after she cleared 13-4.25 to win a jump off. Casper would be the only Cowgirl athlete to stand on the podium for the day but several others contributed by collecting scores.
Crystal Coulter set a new PR in the high jump at 5-4.25 to finish in a tie for fourth place with teammate Ashley Johnson.
Maegan Moore finished sixth in the 200-meters with a time of 24.81 while Katja Woelfl was also sixth in the 3,000-meters with a PR time of 10:02.91.
Alison Smegal ran a PR time of 5:07.63 to finish seventh in the mile run and Mia Robinson placed seventh in the 400-meters with a time of 58.83.
Other scorers for the men saw Jalson Charles post a PR in the 400-meters with a fourth place time of 58.83. Olandis Johnson finished fourth in the 800-meters with a 1:52.10; Tyler Smith was sixth in the 200-meters at 21.83 and was also sixth in the 60-meters with a PR time of 6.83; and Nemanja Koviljac placed seventh in the triple jump at 48-2.75.
Sam Houston State finished off the sweep by winning the women’s team title with 127 total points to beat out Lamar (97) and Northwestern State (96).
Final Team Rankings:
MEN – 1, Sam Houston State 142.50; 2, McNeese 120; 3, Stephen F. Austin 117.50; 4, Incarnate Word 55; 5, Northwestern State 54; 6, Southeastern Louisiana 36; 7, Lamar 30; 8, Abilene Christian 29; 9, Central Arkansas 27; 10, Houston Baptist 21; 10, Texas A&M-CC 21; 12, New Orleans 10.
WOMEN – 1, Sam Houston State 127; 2, Lamar 97; 3, Northwestern State 96; 4, Stephen F. Austin 93.50; 5, Abilene Christian 55; 6, McNeese 44; 7, Southeastern Louisiana 35; 8, Incarnate Word 30; 9, Houston Baptist 22.50; 9, Texas A&M-CC 22.50; 11, New Orleans 19; 12, Central Arkansas 15.50; 13, Nicholls 5.