May 14, 2006
WACO, Texas--The Missouri Track and Field team left all-of-it in Waco, Texas, on Sunday, completing one of the squad's best championship weekends since the inception of the Big 12 Conference, scratching and scrapping to a third-place men's team finish and a sixth-place (76) women's team finish. With 79 points, the Mizzou men tied their best placing performance all-time in the conference. Senior Amanda Bales of the women's team won her first individual conference title with a come-back run in the 1500 meters.
The Mizzou men matched their best-ever placing in the Big 12 as done before in 2001 and 2002, improving from a ninth-place 2005 finish and a 11th-place showing in 2004.
"This weekend has been an absolute thrill," said Head Coach Dr. Rick McGuire. "We dug in and were tough all the way. No let downs. We knew we had a great team and would be able to score some points. We are in the best track conference in the nation and Missouri didn't disappoint. We've had a great month, and there's more to come."
Some projections had Missouri clinging only to a possible spot in the top half, but with gutsy and clutch performances from the team all-around, the dominoes started to fall in the way of the Tigers. The team was able to stack points without an event winner. However, with second- and third-place finishes in the 800-meters, hammer throw, and decathlon events, points started to tally. Thirteen Tigers scored in 11 events in the Mizzou cause.
And, as every good track and field meet should end, it came down to the final race, the Mile (Baylor's track is 440 yards) relay. Mizzou stood third with 78, but Colorado and Oklahoma were right behind at 72. Colorado won their section of the race and placed third overall in the event to score six and tie Mizzou. The Tigers had to beat Iowa State's 3:13.66 time set in the heat before to grab eighth and the last point. The squad of Jimmie Jones, Marcus Mayes, Neville Miller, and Blake Figgins (coincidently, the Drake Relays 4x800-meter relay champions) came across at 3:13.50, 16 hundredths of a second ahead of the Cyclones. For the Mizzou men, it was that type of weekend.
The women finished sixth with 76 points, 56 of those coming by way of distance events.
Senior Amanda Bales (Bettendorf, Iowa) came from 10 meters behind on the homestretch in the 1500-meter run to take her first-career individual Big 12 title, catching Baylor freshman Erin Bedell at the tape, winning by eight-hundredths of a second with a 4:21.21 clocking. Bedell, from fourth, caught up to Bales and passed on the final turn and seemingly grabbed an insurmountable lead. With 75 meters to go, Bales started to move faster than Bedell and eventually caught the Lady Bear freshman at the tape in a photo finish.
With the win, Bales grabbed Missouri's first conference title in the event since five-time conference champion Sabrina Dornhoefer took the Big Eight title in 1985. Bales is now a three-time conference champion, having anchored indoor distance medley relay titles in both 2004 and 2005.
"This was my first conference championship in the five years I've been here," said Bales. "It seemed I kept getting second and third in these races, and you never forget that. I didn't want to leave the race with effort not used, and when I pushed to the line I didn't know if I had won, but I knew I had, at one point, leaned in front of her."
That wasn't the only Mizzou highlight in the race, as the Tigers grabbed 17 points with three finalists in the race. Junior Kristin Hansen captured a new personal best, running in 4:26.25 to place fifth. Sophomore Kasey Kimball (St. Louis, Mo.) exploded to a two-second personal best with a sixth-place showing at 4:27.51.
"It's so great to be able to come to the Big 12 Championships and have two of your teammates running right alongside", said Bales. "To be able to score 17 points in the event is awesome, I'm so proud for us."
Bales came back to be part of a two-three finish in the 5000-meter run. Senior Serena Ramsey (Waukesha, Wis.) placed second in the race with a 16:30.04 time. Running alongside, Bales took third at 16:32.57. Ramsey earned two second-place finishes for the team on the weekend, adding eight more points in the 10,000 meters on Friday.
Bales and Ramsey compiled a team-leading 16-point weekend and the women's 1500 coupled with the women's 800 captured 31 points along for the Tigers on the final day.
In the women's 800, it came down to three women in a near blanket finish at the line. Senior Ashley Patten finished runner-up with a 2:07.00 clocking. Sophomore Trisa Nickoley (Tecumseh, Kan.) postured a new collegiate personal best and third-place finish with a 2:07.25 time. Texas Tech's Althea Chambers won the race at 2:07.00.
Kansas State's Morgan Bonds led after the first lap, splitting a very quick 59-second opener, keeping Patten and Nickoley still in fifth and sixth with 200 to go.
"We came around after 400 in 62 (seconds), which was just perfect for (Ashley and me)," said Nickoley. "We hung back and really kicked it in in the last 100."
Nickoley improved from her seventh-place finish in this event as a freshman.
"The race was real encouraging for me," Nickoley continued. "Running with this type of field, in this conference, this is something that should give me a big confidence boost."
In the women's 3000-meter steeplechase, freshman Angela Potrykus (Evergreen, Colo.) grabbed a seventh-place finish with a 11:01.01 time, jumping to fourth all-time at Missouri in the event. Carolyn Rauen was eighth at 11:10.10.
Junior Jamie Wynn added an eighth-place showing with the discus at 161-0 (49.07m).
The points continued to rack up for the Tiger men in the men's 800. Mizzou scored 18 points in the race as Tigers finished second, third, and fifth.
Junior Marcus Mayes (Sand Springs, Okla.) recorded the best conference finish of his career with a second-place showing at 1:47.99, a season-best. Senior Neville Miller (St. Louis, Mo.) placed third at 1:48.13. Junior Jimmie Jones was fifth at 1:50.47.
NCAA-indoor Mile champion Christian Smith of Kansas State won in 1:46.49, fighting off a last-turn charge by Mayes and Miller.
Senior Hans Uldal completed a heroic weekend with a fifth-place finish in the men's open javelin, throwing right at his personal best with a throw of 203 feet, 8 inches (62.07m). Yesterday, Uldal completed the men's decathlon with a second-place finish after nearly having to withdraw due to a severe groin injury in the high jump on Friday. Uldal accounted for 12 of the Tiger points on the weekend.
And, the points kept coming for the Tiger men. Junior Greg Bracey (Milwaukee, Wis.), and Mizzou football wide receiver, placed fifth in the 100-meter dash at 10.52. Senior Matt Noonan (Baldwin City, Kan.) fought off a stumble on the water jump in the 3000-meter steeplechase to place sixth at 8:58.61. Sophomore Nate Englin placed sixth in the shot put with a 59-2¼ (18.04m) heave.
Fox Sports Midwest will air tape-delayed coverage of the meet on Friday, May 19 at Noon, central, and also on Thursday, May 25, at 1 p.m., central.
Next for the Mizzou squad is the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships in Knoxville, Tenn. Twenty-three Tigers have qualified for the meet that runs May 26 and 27.