The University of Missouri Track and Field team is having a strong season as they head to the SEC Championships that run Thursday-Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This is the fourth year in the Southeastern Conference for the team and the sixth under head coach Brett Halter, who took over the program from mentor Rick McGuire following the 2010 season.
Mizzou lost a lot of talent to graduation, as four All-Americans completed their eligibility. Two mainstays of the Mizzou program who completed their four years of eligibility over the last five years were throwers Kristen Peoples and Jill Rushin. The pair were two of the top shot putters in the country and are volunteer assistants at Mizzou while training for the Olympic Trials. Rushin earned three top-8 NCAA finish trophies while earning several more second-team and honorable mention honors in the shot. Peoples was one of the best all-around throwers in the country. She was a nine-time All-American, earned 1st-team All-American trophies in the shot put, discus, hammer throw, and was the 2015 Indoors weight throw national champion.
The third All-American lost to graduation last year was Katrine Haarklau, the school record holder in the javelin and pole vault. After starting with the multi-events, The Norwegian eventually turned her focus at Mizzou to the pole vault where she was a two-time first team All-American and earned several other second-team and honorable mention honors. The trio of Peoples, Rushin, and Haarklau combined for seven school records and sixteen All-American honors.
Kansas native MaCauley Garton was a two-time All-American in the Javelin for the Tigers. He earned first-team honors in 2014 with an eighth place NCAA finish, and took 11th in 2015.
After numerous staff changes over the last five years, it appears Halter might have things set for years to come. Last summer, Halter added two from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville to the Tiger Staff. The first was his wife, SIUE head cross country and track coach Eileen (McAllister), a St. Joseph High School (St. Louis) and Washington University-St. Louis graduate and former distance runner. The pair got married in the fall of 2014. Eileen Halter joined the staff to assist Head cross country and distance coach Marc Burns with the distance runners.
Also joining the staff from SIUE was Illiyan Chamov, to coach the horizontal jumps. A Bulgaria native, Chamov came to the United States to compete at Lindenwood University where he was a five-time NAIA national champion in the jumps. After graduation, Chamov coached at Lindenwood, before moving on SIUE. At SIUE, Chamov coached several All-Americans including LaDerrick Ward. Ward earned multiple All-American honors in the long jump and had a best of more than 26-3 in the long jump. Ward is a volunteer assistant at Mizzou. Ward’s brother J’amari, from Cahokia, Il., is the top high school long jump and triple jumper in the country and signed with Mizzou last fall. Chamov’s wife, Celia M’Boua, a Paris, France native, also competed at Lindenwood University. M’Boua was a four-time NAIA horizontal jumps national champion while at the St. Charles school. M’boua spent 2013-2015 coaching jumps and short sprints at Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis, and now is a volunteer assistant for the Tigers.
Also on staff is vertical jumps and multi-events coach Dan Lefever, who is in his 14th season with the Tigers. Former Tennessee horizontal jumper and San Diego State assistant coach Carjay Lyles is in this third year on the Mizzou staff. Lyles coached the horizontal jumps and sprints his first two years, before handing the jumps duty to Chamov this year. Marc Burns is finishing his second year as head cross country and distance coach. Burns previously coached at Bradley, Wichita State, and his alma-mater Loyola University in Chicago.
Jamaica native and former NAIA hurdle champion for Central Methodist University in Fayette, MO., Ed Stewart is in his third year working with the sprinters and hurdlers as a volunteer assistant. Former Jefferson City High School 15-foot pole vaulter and Mizzou vaulter and multi-eventer Ben Licklider has been working as a volunteer assistant since his competition days ended several years ago. Licklider is the son of legendary Jeff City High School coaches Dennis and Roberta Licklider, who went into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2013, a few months after the program was inducted.
The 2016 edition of the Mizzou track and field team is mixed with veteran and young talent. The team is well rounded with solid performers from each event group. Heading into the conference championships, the Tigers have 34 performances that rank in the top-100 in NCAA Division I, with the men holding 13 of those marks, and the women 21.
The Mizzou men are lead by a pair of sprinters. Senior Markesh Woodson (Colorado Springs, Co.) is a school record holder, SEC Champion, and several time All-American. His specialties are the 60 meters indoors and the 100 meters outdoors. Woodson’s 10.13 100 meters at Arkansas last month puts him seventh on the NCAA Division I national performance list and bettered the 10.16 US Olympic qualifying standard.
Freshman Kahmari Montgomery (Plainfield, Il.) loudly announced his presence on the national track stage with his victory in the 400 at the SEC Indoor championships in 45.78 from the first of two sections. His time gave him the victory over seniors from Florida, LSU, and Arkansas among others. It also qualified him for nationals where he placed 11th. Montgomery is 20th on the national list with an outdoor best of 46.00 for 400 meters while his 20.80 puts him 45th in the 200 meters. The MU squad of Jonathan Holder, Niager Mathis, Markesh Woodson, and Charles Graham Jr. sit 28th on the national list with a mark of 39.87 in the 4×100 meter relay.
On the women’s side, junior LaQuisha Jackson (Chattanooga, Tn.) leads the women’s sprint corp. Jackson holds the Mizzou Indoor 60 and 200 meter records and her times in the 100, 200, and 400 meters outdoor put her on the national list top-100 in each. Jackson’s 23.10 200 meters at the Florida Relays broke the school record and puts her 23rd nationally. Her 11.47 100 meter time puts her 55th on the national list while her 54.03 400 is 82nd.
Junior Sandra Farquharson is a Jamaica native who competed for a New York City High School and competed for Jamaica at the 2012 World Junior Championships. She sits 68th on the 400 meter list with a best of 53.70. In the hurdles, sophomore Valerie Thames (Milwaukee, Wi.) and senior Alyssa Felton (Lithonia, Ga.) are on the 100 hurdles list, 36th-13.29 and 61st-13.49 respectively. Thames is also on the 400 meter hurdles list, coming in at a tie for 56th in 59.10. The women’s 4×100 squad of Maya Cody, Jackson, Thames, and Jacquelin Obi are 23rd nationally with a 44.54. The 4×400 crew of Cody, Thames, Jackson, and Ayo Adewole are 27th with a 3:35.97.
In the horizontal jumps, sophomore John Warren (Prince George, Va.) and Tony Carodine (Colorado Springs, Co.) are both in the top 30 nationally in the triple jump. Warren is tied for 23rd with a mark of 51-10.5 and finished 11th at the NCAA meet last year as a freshman. Carodine is tied for 28th with a 51-9. Warren also sits 32nd nationally in the long jump with a best of 25-1.25. Junior Lynnsey Brim (Gahanna, Oh.) sits tied for 85th on the national list with a long jump best of 19-9. Danielle Williams (Aurora, Co.) is tied for 88th in the triple jump with a mark of 40-9.5.
Head coach and throws coach Brett Halter has two of the country’s best in the javelin. Junior Reinhard Van Zyl sits ninth on the national list with a 244-7, while sophomore Alex Pascal is 15th with a 241-2. Zyl is a newcomer from Cloud County Community College and was the 2011 IAAF World Youth Champion for South Africa. Pascal is from the Cayman Islands and placed 24th at last year’s NCAA meet as a freshman.
Halter has two freshman women on the top-100 performance list. Redshirt freshman Gabi Jacobs (Bloomington, Il.) is 36th nationally with a mark of 174-8 in the discus. True freshman Rebecca Keating (Reading, England) sits 83rd in the hammer throw with a toss of 187-3.
Coach Dan Lefever appears to have his next pole vault all-american after recent honorees Katrine Haarklau, Heather Green, and Brian Hancock. Matt Ludwig, a freshman from Chardon, Oh. was 14th on the national high school performance list last year with a best clearance of 16-8.75. Ludwig also notched a 24th spot on the list with a 37.18 in the 300 meter hurdles. After this year, it doesn’t appear Ludwig will be going back to the hurdles. After a best of 17-4.5 indoors as well as a sixth place showing at SEC Indoors, Ludwig went 17-11 two weeks ago at the Memphis Tiger Invitational, and vaulted him past Hancock’s school record and into 10th place on the Division I national list.
On the women’s side, Lefever has two vaulters on the top-100 performance list. Junior Alyssa Applebee (Seneca, Il.) broke Jennifer Bennett’s indoor school record with her 13-10 clearance at the SEC meet to place sixth. Applebee cleared 13-9 in Memphis to put her 34th on the national list. Freshman Rayce Albino (New Berlin, Wi.) has a best of 13-3, which ties her for 81st nationally.
In the distances, Mizzou has eight marks in the top-100. Sophomore sensation Karissa Schweizer (Urbandale, Ia.) leads the way. Schweizer qualified for the NCAA cross country championships as a freshman in 2014 and odds are good she’ll be headed to her second NCAA national meet soon. Laura Roxberg’s 4:13 1500 meter and Sabrina Dornhoefer’s 15:42 5k school records may likely go down if Schweizer can stay healthy over the next couple of years. Schweizer sits 17th nationally in the 1500 with a 4:17 and 14th in the 5k with a 15:58.
Pevely, Mo. native and Herculaneum High School star Kaitlyn Fischer qualified for two NCAA meets of her own as a Mizzou freshman in 2013-2014. Fischer qualified for the NCAA cross country championships in 2013 and despite getting run over a time or two, managed to recover and finish 79th. Outdoors Fischer debuted in the 10k at the 2014 Stanford Invitational with a 34:08 for third on the MU all-time list. After a fourth place finish at SECs in 34:13, a sixth place 34:12 at the NCAA West Prelims qualified her for the NCAA championships. In Eugene, Fischer just kept her legs moving, and slowly and steadily moved up in the 25-lap race of 24 athletes. On the final straight, Fischer passed a runner or two and ended up ninth in a school record and a nearly minute personal record of 33:12. The finish earned Fischer second team All-American honors. Fischer seems back to that form with her 34:10 10k at the Mt. SAC Relays, which puts her 36th on the national list.
Fellow former Jefferson Country star and high school cross country All-American at Festus High School Jamie Kempfer (Festus, Mo.), is enjoying success in her redshirt freshman season. Kempfer ran 16:42 for 5k to take 8th at the SEC Indoor Meet. Outdoors her 10k debut wasn’t far off of Fischer’s. Kempfer ran 34:24 at Mt. SAC, to put her 54th on the national list.
Former Fort Zumwalt South High School softballer and All-State trackster Teylar Adelsberger has improved greatly her junior year in the steeplechase. After bests of 10:51 and 10:56 her first two years, Adelsberger has chopped off a lot of time in the event this spring. Adelsberger ran to a fourth place finish at the Florida Relays in 10:24 six weeks ago. Two weeks later at Mt. SAC, Adelsberger dropped another 12 seconds, taking 12th in 10:12. That time puts Adelsberger 28th nationally.
On the men’s side, Mizzou has three distance men with marks in the top-100. Senior Will Crocker (Belvidere, Il.) is a multiple-time All-SEC (Top 3) performer, including a runner-up finish in the 1500 in 2015. Crocker has an 800 best of 1:48.99 from last year while his 3:42.30 1500-meters from this year’s Mt. SAC meet is just over the sub 4-minute mile conversion, and puts him 24th nationally.
Former Moberly All-Stater Sam Dickerson has been under 9 minutes in each of the redshirt senior’s four season’s in the steeplechase and it looks like he’ll make his fourth NCAA Preliminary meet in the event this year. Last year Dickerson ran a PR of 8:51 during the season and at the West Preliminary took 16th, missing a trip to nationals by four places and six seconds. With a couple of All-SEC DMR finishes indoors, Dickerson will look for his first individual SEC honor this weekend. His season best of 8:53.83 in the steeplechase puts him 40th nationally. England native and junior Ollie Lockley posted a 29:41 10k at Mt. SAC, which puts him 91st nationally.
Success at the conference meet won’t come easily. The SEC is regarded as the best athletic conference in the country and SEC track and field may be the best conference sport of any sport in any conference nationally. In many events, SEC athletes make up a majority of the top performers in the country. In the SEC, you may be the 12th fastest 100-meter dash sprinter in the country, and may not even make the eight or nine person final.
While the Tigers have high hopes for SEC’s, however the meet at Alabama’s Sam Bailey Stadium goes for Mizzou, they’ve already had a solid season. They should get quite a few athletes to the NCAA West Preliminary Championships at the University of Kansas at the end of the month for a shot at nationals. The top 48 athletes in each event in the East and West Regions qualify for the Preliminary Championships, while the top 12 finishers there advance to nationals at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, June 8-11.
The meet will be streamed online on the WatchESPN app on Friday at 6:25 p.m. and Saturday at 2:55 p.m., while a highlight show will air on ESPN2 Sunday at 2 p.m. CST.