WKU track and field bring home 10 top-five finishes in first meet

Senior Marlowe Mosley running in the 2020 Conference USA Indoor Track and Field Championships on Feb. 22, 2020 at the Birmingham Crossplex.

Jake Moore

WKU Track and Field began its 2021 season Saturday in Birmingham at Alabama-Birmingham’s Vulcan Invite, bringing home ten top-five finishes over seven different events.

The Hilltoppers found consistent success in the throwing events as four different male throwers notched top-five results. Freshman Kaison Barton turned heads, finishing third in the shot put event (15.37m) in his first ever collegiate meet, with sophomore John Elam placing just behind him in fourth (14.75m).

Junior Joel Dittoe placed fourth (16.29m), and fellow junior Brett Bannon finished fifth (16.14m) in the weight throw event, both personal records for the upperclassmen.

Throwing coach Brent Chumbley was pleased and impressed with the performance of his athletes.

“Brett [Bannon] threw really well and Kaison [Barton] did too,” Chumbley said. “He had a top-three finish in his first ever collegiate meet, so it was a good start for him. Overall, I was pleased with the throwers today, and we’ll continue to make improvements as the season goes along.”

The Hilltoppers were also strong in the pole vault events, as sophomore Devon Montgomery placed fourth, tying his personal indoor pole vault record with a mark of 4.60 meters. Sophomore Grace Turner placed fourth in the women’s pole vaulting event with a jump of 3.60 meters. 

Chumbley had much praise for both Montgomery and Turner after the meet and recognized the two hadn’t had the amount of practice they would have wanted.

“In terms of pole vault, Devon [Montgomery] tied his personal record so I’m excited about that,” Chumbley said. “Especially considering he hasn’t been able to practice on his longer poles in the facility we train in. Grace [Turner] made significant improvements in the last year, and that showed in her performance today. She didn’t practice at all this week because she was sick, so this was a good opening for her.”

Sophomore Alexis Williams performed well in the sprinting events, notching fourth place finishes in both the 60-meter (7.60) and 200-meter (24.72) events. Despite a small wobble in the 200-meter sprint and the fact that Saturday was her first time running the 60-meter event for WKU, Williams’ times currently lead all Conference USA women’s programs.

Sprints coach Tosha Ansley praised Williams’ speed and ability to recover from her trip in the 200-meter event.

“That 60 time would’ve put her in the top eight, top six in the conference last year,” Ansley said. “I wish they would’ve run another race because I think [Williams] would’ve ran faster. As far as the 200 goes, it was okay — her season-best for us has been 21.4-something, but she almost fell in the 200 today, so she just slowed down a little and finished the race.”

Ansley also said her athletes understand that their best times will come later in the year, and the main focus right now is just training.

“It was a decent day for everyone. They came out with good attitudes, and they understand where we are in the training, and we know that we’re just going to get better as the season goes along,” Ansley said. “They know in my training that you’re not going to run fast in the beginning — as long as we all understand that and are on the same page, I think we’ll get better as a group.”

Graduate Marlowe Mosley and senior Dartez Hamlin finished fourth (21.93) and fifth (21.94) respectively in the men’s 200-meter event. Freshman Elliott Bryant set a personal record and finished 10th (22.29) in his debut for WKU. This was also the first time Bryant had ever run on a banked track.

“For the guys, it was pretty much a start, at least to get a base of where they are and then we can move on from there,” Ansley said. “Dartez [Hamlin] and Marlowe [Mosley] ran faster, but for Elliott [Bryant] to do what he did and handle the pressure well, I was pleased with him.”

Other notable results include freshman Lucy Rutherford finishing ninth in the mile (5:28.88) in her indoor track debut, as well as fellow freshman Allison Ferguson setting a personal record in the women’s pole vault event (3.15m) while finishing 14th.

The Hilltoppers face a quick turnaround as they head back to Birmingham on Friday, Jan. 22 for the Samford invite.

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