WKU notches four victories from three athletes, 18 top five finishes at Samford Invite

WKU Track & Field’s (left) Alexis Williams, (middle) Brett Bannon, and (right) Grace Turner earned individual event titles on Saturday at the Samford Invitational at the Birmingham Crossplex.

Jake Moore

WKU Track & Field had a strong showing at the Samford Invitational in Birmingham, Alabama, on Friday, recording 18 top-five finishes and four victories despite competing on less than a week of rest.

Sophomores Alexis Williams, Grace Turner and junior Brett Bannon all brought home wins in their respective events, highlighting WKU’s strong performance throughout the day.

Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Brent Chumbley was happy with the squad’s performance, noting that his athletes were coming off a meet the previous weekend.

“I was very pleased with the team’s effort today coming off a short one-week turnaround,” Chumbley said. “We should be back at full strength in two weeks when we return to action in Birmingham.”

The strongest performance of the meet came from Alexis Wiliams, who won both the 60-meter (7.49) and 200-meter (24.51) women’s sprints. Williams recorded the fastest time in all three 60-meter qualifying heats (7.61) before running the fourth-fastest 60-meter time (7.49) in Lady Topper history en route to a dominant win.

Williams’ final times in both the 60-meter and 200-meter events currently lead Conference USA. Her times put her 20th in the nation in the 60-meter event and 27th in the 200-meter.

Sprints coach Tosha Ansley was ecstatic with William’s performance and said that she believes there is still room for her to get even faster.

“It was great to see Alexis [Williams] come into her own as a sprinter,” Ansley said. “Her wins were great — as far as her 200 goes, it was okay, but it could’ve been even better. It was a solid start for her, and now we’re just getting ready for the rest of the season.”

WKU’s second victory of the day came from sophomore Grace Turner, who won her second collegiate pole vaulting event (3.70m). Her mark currently ranks second in C-USA. 

“Grace [Turner] picked up a good win today in the pole vault,” Chumbley said. “[Turner] took some good attempts at a new personal record, but it just didn’t happen for her today. I was very happy with her mental approach, and I’m excited for the next two weeks of training.”

Junior Brett Bannon scored WKU’s third victory of the invitational in the weight throw event. Bannon set a new personal record (16.91m) on his sixth throw to claim victory, a throw that currently stands as the third best in C-USA. The throw demolished Bannon’s previous mark (16.14m) from WKU’s season opening meet. Freshman Kaison Barton also impressed, finishing third (16.04) in his first ever collegiate weight throw event.

Graduate student Marlowe Mosley (6.99), senior Dartez Hamlin (6.99), and freshman Elliott Bryant (7.00) finished third, fourth and fifth respectively in the men’s 60-meter event. Hamlin (21.75) and Mosely (21.87) brought home top-five finishes in the 200-meter event as well, finishing second and third respectively.

Ansley was pleased with the men’s performances and stated that the upcoming weeks off from competition will help with training.

“[The men] still need a little work here and there,” Ansley said. “I’m glad they’re going to have this coming week off in order to get some good training in — they saw where their weaknesses were, and we just will go from there. Every weekend that we can run and stay healthy, as much as we can, is a good thing.”

Senior Savannah Heckman led the women’s distance squads with a seventh-place finish in the 3000-meter event (10:49.71) and a 10th place showing in the mile (5:22.08). Junior Dedrick Troxell notched two top-10 finishes for the men, placing fifth in the 800-meter event (1:59.57) and sixth in the mile (4:16.70). Fellow junior Emerson Wells set a personal record in the mile event (4:26.68) and placed fifth in the 3000-meter (8:43.62).

Assistant coach Brooks LeCompte made it clear that the wins will eventually come, but right now his athletes just need to focus on staying aggressive.

“Our focus right now is to simply race aggressively for as long as we can,” LeCompte said. “I want them to get uncomfortable early and learn to adapt. As the year goes on, I expect most [runners] to continue to improve as some of them did this weekend.”

The Hilltoppers will receive two well-deserved weeks off from competition. WKU’s next meet is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 7, at the Jaguar Invitational hosted by the University of South Alabama in Birmingham. 

Sports reporter Jake Moore can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Charles_JMoore.