December 3, 2020

Individual marks, not team totals, recognized in rain-shortened SLIAC track championship

Despite 14 teams competing at the April 28 True Blue Open in Jacksonville, Ill., the real winner was Mother Nature.

After four hours of starting, stopping and restarting events because of the weather, the meet was formally canceled. The True Blue Open doubles as the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship for the men’s and women’s track and field teams.

Dusty Lopez, Webster University track and field coach, said it was deflating once the event was called short due to inclement weather.

“Everybody there was checking weather and saw the radar wasn’t looking too good,” Lopez said. “People were pretty resigned to the fact that we just had really bad luck. Our kids were pretty excited and ready to go. And then we just don’t even get the chance. It’s a disheartening feeling.”

Webster sent 17 athletes from the men’s and women’s track and field teams, but only seven athletes were able to finish their events. A total of nine events for the women and eight for the men were put into the record books before the True Blue Open ended prematurely.

SLIAC Commissioner Will Wolper said he has never run into a situation like this in the track and field arena. Therefore, he wanted to reach out to some of the conference’s track and field coaches to determine whether the number of events completed would satisfy a full meet.

“In the track and field realm, is nine events enough to be a true meet, or does it need to be more?” Wolper said. “That’s one of the, as I refer to it, technical aspects of a sport I want to educate myself on more before making a decision. … If the coaches say we didn’t get deep enough into the event, then we just would not have an invitational this year. It would show up in the record books as being postponed.”

Wolper said individual scores for the events would be counted, but team totals would not be recorded.

Among the Webster athletes that did participate was senior Gretchen Rieger, who placed first in the javelin throw with a distance of 37.36 meters. Rieger also placed first in the same event at the Saint Louis University Invitational on April 14.

Junior Jane McKibben, who said she had “perfect” weather for her event, participated in the 10,000-meter run. The event combined men and women because only two women got a chance to participate. Sophomore Austin Duncan ran in the same event, which made him the only Webster men’s athlete to compete that day.

McKibben finished first between the two women with a time of 42 minutes, 25.63 seconds, beating out Millikin University’s Amanda Meeker. Duncan finished with a time of 36:17.40, good enough for eighth place among the men.

Senior Tyeila Gant competed in two events, the high jump and the long jump. Gant finished sixth in both events.

Lopez said he felt the reason a make-up for the SLIAC championship would not be determined was due to scheduling and the lack of provisions.

“It’s hard to get everybody’s schedule reconfigured within a week,” Lopez said. “Then, you get into last-chance competitions that are qualifiers for nationals. Nobody wants to be hosting a conference championship instead of going to a last-chance qualifier. You’re not going to get anybody willing to go to a makeshift conference meet on that weekend.”

Next up for the men’s and women’s track and field teams is their final scheduled meet of the season, the North Central College Dr. Keeler Invitational. The event takes place on May 10 and 11 in Naperville, Ill. Lopez said he may send three or four athletes to this “last-chance” qualifier for NCAA Division III track and field championship.

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