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Teams shine at conference

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The Baker women’s track team held on to its third place ranking while the men’s team made a dramatic comeback to also place third at the championship conference meet in Missouri last weekend.

The two teams combined to produce five event champions, and four school records were set at the Heart of America Athletic Conference Championships in Fayette, Mo.

“As a team, I think we accomplished a lot, and we came a long way since indoor,” freshman Justin Hill said. “It’s been a fun year. It went by fast, and I’m definitely looking forward to next year.”

Lindenwood and MidAmerica Nazarene universities finished first and second in the conference for both the men’s and women’s teams.

The women’s team was ranked third after the first day of competition, which was also its pre-meet ranking. The Wildcats finished the meet scoring 145 points, 78 points ahead of Central Methodist University, which finished in fourth place.

“Day one went according to schedule,” head coach Zach Kindler said. “We put ourselves in a position where we needed to be in order to win.”

Baker had three female athletes who won their events. Junior Chelsey Ornburn won the pole vault and nearly broke the conference record. Junior Kayla Irwin finished third in the pole vault and freshman Hela Kawas placed sixth. Sophomore Ashlee Miller won the long jump, and she placed second in the 200-meter with a time of 25.50 seconds, which is a new school record. Miller also finished second in the high jump, with freshman Christina Delladio placing third and junior Regan Boyer finishing sixth.

The 4×400-meter team of freshman Chelsea Twietmeyer and sophomores Kelsey Heckathorne, Katey Wegemer and Miller broke the school record by almost three seconds and also qualified for nationals. The 4×100-meter team, made up of freshman Laniesha Douglas, Miller, Irwin and Ornburn, finished third and ran the event in 49.31 seconds, which qualifies the team for nationals and is a new school record.

Heckathorne finished fourth in the 400-meter, and her time of 58.89 seconds is second all-time at Baker. Junior Ari Penner finished third in the 3000-meter race walk with a time of 19:48, which is also second all-time. Sophomore Mikayla Medlock placed third in the 3000-meter steeplechase with a time of 11:49, which is second best all-time at Baker and was only one second away from qualifying for nationals.

Another second best on Baker’s all-time list was sophomore Carrie Lister who got fourth in the shot put with a throw of 12.11 meters. Wegemer placed second in the heptathlon for the second year in a row.

On the men’s side, Baker battled throughout the meet and was down by five points to Central Methodist with only two events left to decide third and fourth place. Sophomore Arnold Sirorei placed seventh in the 5000-meter race, which is also second best all-time at Baker. This gave Baker two points, meaning the team had to score three points higher than Central Methodist in the final event, the 4×400-meter relay, in order to place third.

The 4×400-meter team, made up of sophomores Matthew James and Aaron Hannon, freshman Tanner Gleason and junior Trevor Gleason, ran its best race of the season by nearly 10 seconds. The team got third in the event – three places ahead of Central Methodist who finished sixth, and Baker ended up tying Central Methodist for third place overall with 104 points.

Hannon was named the men’s high-point scorer at conference and placed in six out of seven events. He placed in the 110-meter and 400-meter hurdles, long jump, high jump, and the 4×100-meter and 4×400-meter relays in his first outdoor conference meet.

Sophomore Kome Okiomah placed third in the 100-meter and senior Richie Bryant finished fourth. Okiomah also finished second in the 200-meter, and his time of 21.89 seconds put him third all-time at Baker. Bryant also finished second in the triple jump, 13.19 meters, and is fifth all-time; he won the long jump with a jump of 7.18 meters, which is third all-time at Baker and fourth on the NAIA national list. James finished second in the 400-meter hurdles, behind Hannon, and senior Zach Atzeni placed sixth in the 110-meter hurdles. Kindler earned his own accomplishment by being named the women’s conference coach of the year in his first year at Baker. The other conference coaches voted on the award.

“It just showed he’s put in a lot of hard work,” junior Katie James said.

Kindler said this was a combination of the rest of the coaches, who deserve credit, and the women who are the ones doing all the work.

Some of the athletes will be attending meets in the next two weeks, either as a last chance to qualify for nationals or for additional practice for those already qualified.

Saturday is the Central Iowa Invitational in Pella, Iowa, and the Emporia Twilight, the final meet before nationals, is May 10. The NAIA Outdoor Championships are May 22-24 in Edwardsville, Ill.

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