WKU runs in Florida Relays

West Palm Beach, Fla. sophomore Jonathon Hayden practices hurdles before his race in the finals of the men’s 60 meter hurdles at the Music City Challenge in Nashville, Tenn. February 13, 2016. Hayden went on to finish fifth with a time of 8.09 seconds. Justin Gilliland/HERALD

By: Evan Heichelbech

The WKU Track and Field Team was pitted against some of the superior talent in the country last weekend at the University of Florida for the Pepsi Florida Relays, and they responded in a big way.

The trio of freshman Keenon Laine, senior Jessica Gelibert and junior Sandra Akachukwu all had top 10 finishes over the three-day meet, representing WKU on a national stage.

“For our second meet of the year, I thought the kids did a good job,” head coach Erik Jenkins said. “There were a lot of things we needed to evaluate so we could come back and work on them, but I think it was a good start. We’ve got a long way to go to be ready for the conference championship and the NCAA Championship, but I do believe we have people who can get the job done.”

Laine finished seventh in the long jump event with a jump of 2.06 meters and Gelibert finished eighth in the 400 meter hurdles with a 58.80-second time that ranks 25th nationally.

The best finish of the weekend, however, came from Akachukwu. The junior’s 5.87-meter long jump earned her a fifth place finish in the event, and WKU’s highest finish in any event over the weekend.

“She’s just got to stay humble and stay healthy and keep working at it,” Jenkins said. “That was her first opportunity to long jump outdoors. We expect her to be a player come May and June.”

While the three top 10 finishes were the major takeaway for Jenkins’ squad, the rest of the team had favorable performances as well.

Sophomore Julius Morris’10.33-second 100-meter dash was good enough for the twelfth-best time nationally and eleventh place overall in the event.

Morris also teamed up with senior Ja’Karyus Redwine, junior Kyree King and junior Ventavius Sears in the 4×100 meter relay and produced a time of 40.07 seconds for eleventh place in the event.

The women’s 4×100 meter relay team of Gelibert, junior Carrol Hardy, freshman Jadzia Beasley and sophomore Khadijah Valentine was no slouch either, placing sixteenth with the 42nd best time nationally of 45.296.

WKU showed out in the 4×400 meter relay as well, with Tashuan Yapchung, Gelibert, Valentine and junior Kaila Smith placing thirteenth with a time of 3:42.40.

Senior Vincent Wyatt, junior Jenessa Jackson and Hardy gave WKU two more top 20 finishes on the weekend with some outstanding individual performances.

Wyatt ran a time of 13.81 seconds for fifteenth place in the men’s 110-meter hurdles event and Jackson’s 54.62-meter hammer throw and 16.14-meter shot put placed her 14th and 16th in the events, respectively.

Hardy came in at nineteenth place in the 100-meter dash, setting a career-high 11.52 seconds along the way.

“A lot of those times would finish top 16 in the event, but we were running against a lot of professionals,” Jenkins said. “Even when you finish in the top 20 of an event like this, there were multiple countries sending their professional athletes in the Florida Relays so it was a very very competitive field.”

Up next for WKU is the Hilltopper Relays, which will take place Friday through Saturday. The Hilltopper relays are the only event WKU will be hosting this year.

“The Hilltopper Relays are the only meet we get to hold at home so it’s something we take a lot of pride in. We want to be able to showcase our talent to the WKU and Bowling Green community. It’s the largest meet we’ve ever had as far as participation goes.”