Red Wolves track and field finish in top three at SBC Championship
Many fans of the Sun Belt Conference were confused when schools like Texas State, Texas-Arlington and Georgia State were added to replace old conference powerhouses like Middle Tennessee State, North Texas and Florida International. These new schools lacked a strong football history and most were cynical about the prospects of these competitors after the fall.
Despite these concerns, many of the new schools have shined throughout the spring season, and the Sun Belt Indoor Track and Field Championship was a definite proving ground for many of these new competitors.
The Red Wolves entered into the two-day event in Birmingham, Ala. knowing it would be a dogfight. A-State was one of the favorites in the championships after posting an impressive series of regular season events.
The Red Wolves were one of the highest ranked team in the Sun Belt nationally, topping out at 27th for the women’s team and 43rd for the men’s team in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association rankings, which is considered the authority on the subject. In fact, from the beginning of the season to Feb. 4, A-State was the highest ranked school in the Sun Belt, but fell behind newcomer Texas State at the end of the season.
Many expected the Red Wolves to dominate the women’s side of the Championship, with senior track star Sharika Nelvis competing in her last Indoor Championship for the scarlet and black.
Expectations did not meet reality, however, and the Red Wolves finished third overall with a team score of 78.5 points. Western Kentucky won the women’s overall with a combined score of 169 points, followed by Texas State with 121.
Nelvis was the overall point leader on the women’s side, with wins in the 60-meter dash with a time of 7.28, 200-meter dash with a time of 23.50, and the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.04.
“I was really excited about the three PRs (personal records). It puts me in a great position going to nationals,” Nelvis said. “Overall it was a great meet and I’m proud of the accomplishments and progress I’ve made since freshman year.”
Junior Kristina Auburt was also a star for A-State and won the 5000-meter run title with a time of 16:46.32, which broke the previous Sun Belt Indoor Championship time of 16:51.20. Auburt also finished third in the mile run with a time of 4:57.43 that earned six points for the Red Wolves.
Among other notable finishers for A-State, sophomore Alexandra Pevtsova finished sixth in the women’s pole vault with a jump of 3.5 meters, the 4x400 meter relay team finished seventh, freshman Erika Christian finished eighth in the 400-meter relay and junior Savannah Hutchinson finished ninth in the Pentathlon.
For the men’s side, a rough day two moved the Red Wolves from second place to a final finish of fifth place overall. Texas-Arlington won the title and broke the Sun Belt Conference record for point total with a final score of 185 points. Following the Mavericks were Western Kentucky with 149 points, Texas State with 79 points, South Alabama with 76.6 points and A-State with 74.3 points.
Senior Richard Chavez led the way for A-State and took the only first place finish for the men with an 18.29 meter throw to win the Shot Put competition.
Senior Justin Whitfield finished third in the 60-meter dash with a time of 6.80 and also finished seventh in the 200-meter dash. Senior Kashef Daniel was the only other athlete to finish in the top three for A-State, taking third in the men’s high jump with a 2.10 meter jump.
Other notable finishes for the Red Wolves were sophomore Billy Ellis’s fourth place finish in the 60-meter hurdles, a sixth place finish in the heptathlon by senior Ethan Sandusky, sophomore Wil Norris’s sixth place finish in the 5000-meter run and freshman Kyle Somerville’s eighth place in the 800-meter run.
Whitfield was optimistic about the results of the Championship for the men’s team.
“I feel like we’re improving as a team, but there’s always room for more improvement. We had a few personal records and finished up a healthy indoor season, which is always a good sign headed into the outdoor season,” he said. “I’ve talked to a few of my teammates and we’re all excited to work hard and see what our future holds.”
Though several athletes finished well for the Red Wolves, head coach Jim Patchell realized the work has not ended.
“We had a few bright spots but certainly didn’t perform well as a team on both the women’s and men’s side,” Patchell said in a press release. “Obviously we have quite a bit of work to do before the outdoor championships in May.”
The A-State men and women’s indoor track and field season ended with this event. Members of the A-State squad will have a final chance to qualify for nationals in the Arkansas Last Chance Qualifier this Friday in Fayetteville.
The first race of the outdoor season is Friday, March 21 at the Ole Miss Invitational in Oxford, Miss.
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