March 5, 2019
Pending medical scratches, a total fourteen Missouri natives, former Missouri high schoolers, and current or former athletes at Missouri colleges have qualified to compete at the 2019 NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships in Birmingham, Alabama next week. The list of 14 includes six former Missouri High School State Champions, one former JUCO All-American, and three from different countries.
This year’s meet will be held for the second time (2016) at the Birmingham CrossPlex in Birmingham, Alabama. The facility is a 75,000 square foot complex that includes state-of-the-art competition facilities for indoor track and field, volleyball, swimming, gymnastics, and more. The facility opened in 2011 and is one of the best indoor track and field venues in the country, hosting many conference meet in a two-week span in February every year.
The top-16 athletes on the national performance list in each individual event will earn a berth to nationals, while the top-12 4×400 and distance medley relay teams will earn berths. Top-8 finishers will earn 1st-Team All-American trophies while placers 9th and beyond will earn Second-Team All-American honors.
Missouri legendary high school distance runner Taylor Werner may run in two events in Alabama. Werner, the former high school All-American at Ste. Genevieve High School is a junior at Arkansas. Werner had a phenomenal freshman year for the Lady Razorbacks in 2016-17. Werner didn’t wait long to earn her first NCAA All-American honor, placing 16th at the 2016 cross country national meet. The finish earned her a spot on a USA Track and Field junior squad for a multi-country cross country in the United Kingdom in January of 2017.
Werner’s freshman indoor season was highlighted by a 9:06 3k, and SEC winning 16:04 5k. Her season ended at the NCAA meet, stepping into anchor the distance medley relay after two of her teammates qualified for the mile finals after their preliminary finishes. Werner ran an impressive 4:37 1600-meter anchor leg on night one of the meet helping Arkansas to an 11th place finish. She followed that up with a 14th-place 3k finish on day two in 9:27.
Werner’s freshman year outdoors included a 15:51 5k personal record, SEC 10k runner-up finish, advancement to her first NCAA outdoor national meet, where she placed 22nd in the 5k. Werner added a USA Track and Field Junior National 3k championship title to her resume which gave her a spot on the Pan-American Junior Championship team. Werner captured the 3k Pan-Am title in Peru representing the USA for the second time in her freshman year.
A car accident in October of 2017 knocked her off course until recently. While she continued to train and race, a fracture in her back wasn’t discovered until the Spring of 2018, and full recovery from all the accident repercussions wasn’t achieved until this winter. Werner is the 7th-seed in the 3k with a PR 8:56.97 clocking on the 300-meter track at the University of Washington. Werner also ran the anchor leg of the Razorback 7th-seeded distance medley relay. With two teammates again entered in the mile this year, both top-6 seeds, Werner could anchor the distance medley relay again.
However, Arkansas head coach Lance Harter could decide that his #1 natinoally ranked team may benefit more with Werner running the 3000-meters fresh on Saturday than having her anchoring the DMR Friday night. Teammate Maddy Reed is third on the team with a 4:43 mile season best this year. While Werner hasn’t run an open mile this year, she split a 4:37.33 1600-meter leg on February 15 in anchoring Arkansas to an 11:04 distance medley relay on a small track, which converts to a 10:57 mark on a standard track and qualifying list mark.
Harter has to decide after the Mile prelims at 5:35 pm Friday if Lauren Gregory (#3 seed at 4:32.92) or Carina Viljoen (#6 seed at 4:33.88), who should double back and run the DMR 1200-meter and 1600-meter legs three hours later. If either or both advance to Saturday’s mile finals, or neither do, then what’s the better way to score the most points? Have one of the miler’s run the DMR 1200-meter leg and have Werner anchor, or put Brown in, who could expect to run about 3-4 seconds slower? Or if both Gregory and Viljoen advance in the mile, put subs in both legs of the DMR, and keep the milers and Werner fresh for Saturday’s races. There are no preliminaries for the 3k and 5k races. It may be a tough choice for Harter, but most coaches would welcome that type of problem.
As Taylor Werner was dominating in the distance races in high school form the east side of the state, Anglerne Annelus did the same in the sprints on the west side of the state for Grandview High School in Kansas City. Annelus began her college career in Los Angeles at UCLA but transferred across town and ran her redshirt sophomore year at USC last year. Annelus qualified for NCAA outdoors at UCLA in the 200 and 4×100 as a freshman at UCLA, placing 19th and 15th. Annelus broke out and made put her name on the map with the Trojans last year. Annelus qualified for the 100, 200, and 4×100 at last year’s outdoor NCAA Meet.
Annelus placed 15th in 100 at the last big meet at Hayward Field in Oregon before it’s renovation. She followed up by leading off the Lady Trojans 4×100 squad to a third-place finish, to earn her first NCAA 1st-Team All-American trophy. Annelus followed that up by shocking the collegiate track world. Out of lane seven and into a 2.3 mph wind, Annelus edged a loaded field to win the 200-meter dash in 22.76, by a full 1/10th of a second. An unbelievable anchor leg by teammate Kendal Ellis in 50.05 that brought the Trojans back from a 20-meter deficit, not only gave USC the 4×400 title, but also the team title by one point over Georgia.
This is Annelus’ first NCAA Indoor Championship meet. She’s tied for the fourth seed in the 200-meter dash with a 22.90 time. Annelus won 60-meter dash last week at the Mountain Pacific Sports Foundation, a conference meet of many Division I western schools that compete in indoor track and field. She posted a PR of 7.29, which tied her for 26th on the national performance list. Annelus’ Lady Trojans are ranked second nationally behind Werner’s Razorbacks.
Jordan McClendon is the lone Missourian who has qualified in the throws. The Black Jack/St. Louis native was a state champ at John Burroughs School who earned All-American honors in the weight throw as a senior in 2015 at the New Balance National High School meet. McClendon began her college career at Tulane University in New Orleans, before transferring about an hour northwest to LSU for her sophomore year. McClendon set a personal best as a sophomore with a 21.11m/69-3.25 toss in the weight throw, a mark which got her to the NCAA national meet. McClendon placed 15th at the NCAA meet in Texas with a best toss of 19.82m/65-0.5.
McClendon transferred to the University of Missouri before her junior year to compete for Coaches Brett Halter and Ross Richardson. McClendon redshirted last year, while competing at a few home meets unattached. McClendon has continued her progress this season. McClendon went 69-6/21.18m in the weight throw at the Missouri Intercollegiate on January 11 for a PR, the #2 spot in school history and a top-5 national mark. Two weeks later she improved to 71-4/21.74m for another PR. A second place finish at Nebraska came after a third PR on the season with a 71-4.75/21.76m toss.
McClendon captured the bronze medal at the SEC Championships with a 69-0.5/21.04 toss, only behind the runner-up’s 72-6.5 mark and Stamatia Scarvelis of Tennesee’s ridiculous meet record toss of 78-11.25/24.06m. McClendon enters the meet as the 13th seed with her PR 71-4.75 toss.
McClendon’s Mizzou teammate Mirieli Santos is the last of the four Missouri women to qualify for the meet. The freshman from Brazil native won the triple jump silver medal at last year’s IAAF World Under-20 Championships. Santos has only jumped twice this season, but both have been for school records. Fellow freshman Arianna Fisher (San Jose, CA) set the school record of 41-7.25/12.68m at the season opening meet in December. That only lasted until Santos made her Mizzou debut at Tyson Invitational with a 42-8/13.0m jump. Last week, Santos placed eighth at the SEC Championships with a 43-4.25/13.21m jump for Coach Ilyan Chamov to reset her school record. Santos enters the meet tied for the 15th-seed.
Mizzou has two other jumpers set to compete in Birmingham under the guidance of Chamov. They are two of the ten Missouri men set to compete at NCAAs. Cahokia, Il. native Ja’Mari Ward is a horizontal jumping star, who is on the All-Time USA High School performance list in both the triple jump and long jump with bests of 53-3.5 and 26-1. Ward won the 2017 World Under-20 Champs Long Jump prelims with his 26-1 jump, before the results were reset for the finals where he placed 6th.
Unfortunately, Illness and injury have slowed down the St. Louis area native. Ward redshirted his freshman indoor season with illness before going on to win the SEC Outdoor Championships on his final jump with a mark of 26-8/8.13 meters. Injury kept him from competing at the NCAA preliminaries and the chance to qualify for his first NCAA Meet. However, he was able to come back and compete at the USATF Junior Championships where he was able to win the long jump title for the second straight year. Ward captured the long jump title for Team USA at the 2017 Pan-American Junior Games in Peru, like Taylor Werner did in the 3k.
Last year, Ward had a long jump best of 26-1.75 and later placed fifth at SEC Indoors. Ward qualified for his first NCAA meet where he earned 1st-Team All-American honors with a 7th-place finish and a 25-8 jump. That was the last meet of the year for Ward who had some clean-up surgery on one of his ankles.
In December, Ward triple jumped for the first time in college. He went 49-5.5/15.07m and ran a 6.98 60-meter dash at the home opener meet. Ward has jumped over 25’ three times this year and lowered his 60-meter dash time to 6.87 in his third attempt of the season. Ward’s season best of 25-7.5/7.81m in the long jump came at the January 11 home meet. The injury bug may have bitten Ward again. After going 25-2 at Nebraska the first weekend of February, Ward was set to compete in the triple jump and long jump the next week at the Tyson Invitational, but he was a scratch in both. He hasn’t competed in a month, including at last week’s SEC Championships. Ward appears ready to go though and is entered into NCAAs, tied for the 15th-seed.
The third Mizzou jumper set to compete at NCAAs is freshman Roberto Vilches. Vilches is from Mexico City, Mexico. Vilches did fellow Mizzou freshman silver medalist Mirieli Santos one better last year in Finland, tying for the gold medal in the IAAF World Under-20 Championships in the high jump with a 7-3.75 clearance. After a no-height college debut in December, Vilches cleared 7-5/2.26m on January 11th to claim the top mark in the collegiate ranks on the season, and tying her personal outdoor best clearance.
At a home meet on February 16, Vilches long jumped for the first time in college. He flew 25-8/7.82m and into the top-10 nationally. Last week, Vilches tied his second best high jump mark on the season with a 7-3.25/2.22m to take fifth-place. He also jumped 24-11.25/7.60 to take 9th in the long jump. Vilches is tied with three others as the sixth seed with his 7-5 high jump at NCAAs.
Vilches’ 25-8 long jump puts him 14th on the Division I performance list, but he was scratched during the declaration process and will focus on the high jump at his first NCAA meet. The high jump is scheduled for Saturday, while the long jump is Friday.
Missourians will be well represented in the 400-meter dash and 4×400. Chicago area native Kahmari Montgomery had an excellent two years in Columbia for the Mizzou. Montgomery shocked the SEC by winning the conference indoor and outdoor 400-meter titles and earned Second-Team All-American honors at both the 2016 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships. A runner-up finish at the USATF Junior Championships earned Montgomery a spot on team USA for the 2016 World Junior/Under-20 Championships where he earned a 4×400 gold medal to go along with a fifth-place open 400 finish. Montgomery had a solid but not great sophomore year in 2016-2017.
He moved onto the University of Houston last year where coaches Leroy Burrell and Carl Lewis are building a sprint powerhouse. Montgomery helped he Cougars to a third-place team finish at NCAA Outdoors with a 7th-place 400-meters finish and 5th-place 4×400 finish. Montgomery followed NCAAs up with a USA Track and Field 400-meter dash national title in the non-World Championships year
At the American Athletic Conference Championships last week at the CrossPlex, Montgomery posted a PR of 45.04 400-meter clocking to move him to 9th on the All-Time collegiate list. The time puts him nearly 3/10ths of a second on this year’s performance list. Montgomery has also set a PR in the 200 of 20.63. The clocking puts Mongtomery 6th on the national list but he has scratched out of the event during declarations.
Former Parkway North High School All-Stater Jermaine Holt joined Montgomery in Houston this year. St. Louis/Creve Coeur native spent his first two years of college at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas where he earned JUCO All-American honors. Holt has a season’s best of 46.65 in the open 400-meters which put him in a tie for 32nd on the national list, less than half a second from an open NCAA qualifying spot.
Montgomery and Holt joined teammates Amere Lattin and Obi Igbokwe to run the fourth-fastest time in collegiate history in the 4×400 on February 9th. The Cougars posted a 3:01.51 on the banked track at Clemson. That time is fourth on the All-Time collegiate performance list, slower only than the top-3 finishers at last year’s NCAA Meet and ¾ of a second off of USC’s World All-Time best of 3:00.77. Holt split a 45.80-second third leg, while Montgomery anchored in 44.46!
Quincy Hall has shined in his first NCAA season. The Kansas City/Raytown native starred in the 300-meter hurdles and 400-meter dash at Raytown South High School where he was a state champion. His senior year 46.82 400-meter prelim clocking was just 1/100th of a second off of Jefferson City’s Domenik Peterson’s state meet record. However his 46-low time as a sophomore at AAU Nationals in late July/early August appeared to be the All-Time/Any Season Missouri State High School record, until Hazelwood West’s Justin Robinson’s amazing summer of 2018.
Hall spent his first two years of college at College of the Sequoias in the California Junior College system. Hall gained worldwide attention as a freshman in April of 2017 when he ran a 45-low open 400-meters at the Stanford University Invitational, one of the fastest times in the world at that point in the season. He went on to claim the California Junior College individual and team titles.
Hall captured the 2017 USA Track and Field Junior Championships 400-meter hurdles title in 49.51 in June of 2017, to earn a berth on the same USATF Pan-American Junior Games squad as Taylor Werner and Ja’Mari Ward. Hall went on to win Gold at Pan-Am Juniors in Peru, just like Werner and Ward.
Keeping his commitment to South Carolina he made during high school, Hall is now training with legendary sprint and hurdle coach Curtis Frye and assistant Kevin Brown in Columbia, South Carolina.
Hall captured the SEC 400-meter dash title last week in Arkansas in an indoor PR of 45.69. That time makes him the 6th seed next week.
Hall and his teammates will race in the 12-team 3-sectional 4×400 final on Saturday night. The Gamecocks are the 9th-seed with a season best of 3:05.68. That time came at the end of January, and South Carolina’s chance to improve it at the fast track at the Randal Tyson Center in Arkansas at the SEC Championships was foiled because of a false start.
Matt Ludwig, Chris Nilsen, KC Lightfoot
The men’s pole vault in Birmingham could be the best competition in NCAA meet history. The field will feature three former champions, the 2017 IAAF World-Under 20 Champion, and four freshman who are among the greatest high school vaulters ever. Three of those 16 are Missourians.
Matt Ludwig earned NCAA Second-Team All-American honors outdoors as a freshman at Mizzou before he transferred to Akron in his home state of Ohio. Ludwig placed 3rd at NCAA Indoors as a sophomore in 2017 before capturing the 2017 NCAA Outdoor title.
Ludwig took 4th at NCAA Indoors last year, then was runner-up at NCAA Outdoors last June. In his second meet of his senior year this season, Ludwig soared over the 19-foot barrier for the first time, clearing 19-1.5/5.83m. He followed that with a fifth-place finish at the loaded Tyson Invitational three weeks ago. Last week, Ludwig cleared the 19-foot barrier again, going 19-0.75/5.81m to win the Mid-American Conference title. Ludwig is the #2 seed.
Kansas City native Chris Nilsen stamped a place in the history books with his national high school record for Park Hill High School at the sectional meet with an 18-4.75 vault in 2016. Nilsen followed with a state meet record the next week of over 17’. Nilsen followed with the 2016 USATF Junior National Title, competed in the Olympic Trials, then placed 7th at the World Junior Championships while sustaining a shoulder injury during the competition.
As a freshman in 2017, Nilsen captured the NCAA Indoor title. He added a USATF Junior/Under-20 record to his resume that season. After a second All-American finishes outdoors in 2017, he placed 3rd at the USATF Senior Outdoor Championships in Scaramention to qualify for the 2017 World Championships in London, where he just missed the final, placing 13th.
Nilsen’s sophomore year included another top finish indoors and then claimed his second NCAA Title Outdoors at the final big meet at Eugene’s Hayward Field. After another Top-3 finish at last June’s USATF Senior Championships, Nilsen opted for rest and time with family included his wife and new born son, instead of competing on one of the couple Team USA squads in non-World Championships year.
Nilsen has gone over 18-8’’ four times this season and enters the meet as the third seed with a season’s best clearance of 18-10.25/5.75m. Nilsen cleared the 19-foot barrier three times outdoors last year, including his NCAA winning 19-1.5/5.83m, just off the meet record. He set a PR last spring of 19-2.75/5.86m.
Nilsen’s national high school record didn’t last long with pole vault sensation “Mondo” Duplantis of Louisiana going as high as 19-5 in high school and now a freshman at LSU. But you’d think his mark would stand as a state record for years go come. KC Lighfoot had other ideas. Two years younger than Nilsen, Lightfoot bested Nilsen’s mark at Sectionals last May. Lightfoot, the Lee’ Summit High School senior cleared 18-5 at Nixa last June, then followed that up with an 18+ clearance at state to better Nilsen’s state meet mark.
Lightfoot followed his club coach Todd Cooper’s path and made his college choice Baylor University. Lightfoot went on to place third at USATF Juniors last June, then two days later captured the New Balance Outdoor Nationals title. This year, Lightfoot has gone over 18’ five times, included a school record 18-7.5/5.68 mark in mid-February. At the Big 12 meet, Lighfoot beat defending NCAA Champion Hussain Al Hizam with another 18-7.5 vault.
Lightfoot is one of four freshman who are among the greatest high school vaulters of all time including Duplantis, Zach Bradford of KU, and Sondre Guttormsen of UCLA. Also in the field is Deakin Volz of Virginia Tech, who won the 2016 IAAF World Junior Championships. Lightfoot is the 6th seed.
#TeamMO is rounded out by two other former Missouri Collegians.
Kenya native Vincent Kiprop had an amazing two years in Joplin at Missouri Southern State University for coaches Jamie Burhnam and Bryan Schiding. He became one of the top distance runners in NCAA Division II, winner multiple national titles. Kiprop transferred to the University of Alabama before the 2017-18 school year, where he’s become one of the top Division I runners. Kiprop has captured All-American honors in cross country, and just missed a national title outdoors last June with a runner-up finish in the 10k. Kiprop missed the 2018 cross country season but has run a 13:41.21 5k mark this year, and grabbed the last qualifying spot in the event Friday night.
Horizontal jump star John Warren won high school triple jump state titles in Texas, Kansas, and Virginia before landing at Mizzou. Warren qualified for NCAA Outdoors twice in 2015 and 2016 for Mizzou. He sat out the 2017 season then transferred to Southern Mississippi before the 2017-2018 season. He has a PR’s of 54-7’ in the triple jump and 25-7.25 in the long jump before the season. Earned another second team All-American honors in the triple jump at NCAA Outdoors last year before a 7th-place at the USATF Championships. Warren is the 4th-seed in the triple jump with a 55-2/16.81m PR and will look for his first NCAA 1st-Team All-American trophy.
Seed/Tied xTied Name Year School Seed Mark/Time
T4 Anglerne Annelus JR USC 22.90
7 Taylor Werner JR Arkansas 8:56.97
5 Arkansas 10:57.19
1) Lauren Gregory FR 2) Morgan Burks Magee SO
3) Alexandra Byrnes SO 4) Taylor Werner JR
T15 Mirieli Santos FR Missouri 13.21m
13 Jordan McClendon JR Missouri 21.76m
4 Qualifiers in potentially 5 events
1 Kahmari Montgomery SR Houston 45.04
6 Quincy Hall JR South Carolina 45.69
16 Vincent Kiprop SR Alabama 13:41.21
1 Houston 3:01.51
1) Amere Lattin SR 2) Obi Igbokwe SR
3) Jermaine Holt JR 4) Kahmari Montgomery SR
9 South Carolina 3:05.68
1) Arinze Chance SR 2) Otis Jones SR
3) Quincy Hall JR 4) Ty Jaye Robbins SR
T6-3x Roberto Vilches FR Missouri 2.26m
2 Matthew Ludwig SR Akron 5.83m
3 Chris Nilsen JR South Dakota 5.75m
6 KC Lightfoot FR Baylor 5.68m
15 Ja’Mari Ward SO Missouri 7.81m
4 John Warren SR So. Mississippi 16.81m
10 men in 12 events
Day 1 Schedule with Missouri Athletes
Day 2 Schedule with Missouri Athletes
The meet begins Friday and ends Saturday night:
Live Webcast: espn.com/watch with cable subscription
Broadcast Highlights replay on ESPN Sunday evening from 6-8 p.m. CT