Jenkins earns 26th title win with WKU

Erik Jenkins’s mug

Hunter Frint

The WKU Track & Field program put forth a strong showing in its inaugural Conference USA indoor track and field championship, this weekend in Birmingham, Alabama. 

The men’s side finished first in the contest held at the Birmingham CrossPlex, collecting a total of 127 points. Right behind the Hilltoppers was UTSA with 107 points, third was UTEP and fourth was Rice. This was the Hilltoppers’ third indoor championship title in the past four seasons. 

The Lady Toppers also grabbed the attention of conference foes in their inaugural championship effort. WKU women’s finished the weekend second overall, accumulating a total of 84 points, just behind UTEP’s 122. Rice placed third behind the Lady Toppers, with North Texas following in fourth and Louisiana Tech placing fifth.

The victory gave Head Coach Erik Jenkins his 26th conference title since he started coaching at WKU in 2008, and he is excited about the competition that came with the new conference. 

 “There are a lot of very good, elite-level athletes that compete in the Conference USA,” Jenkins said. “There are some very good, talented, and successful coaches that are in Conference USA — it’s an outstanding league.”

Sophomore sprinter Emmanuel Dasor placed first in the 200-meter dash with a personal best record of 21.10 seconds. The mark is the second fastest in WKU history, tying 2008 Hilltopper graduate and 2012 Olympian, Gavin Smellie. 

Freshman Julius Morris also performed well in the 200 with a second-place finish, while sophomore Ventavius Sears pulled third place. 

In the 400-meter dash, Dasor and Sears snagged second and third respectively with close times of 47.60 and 47.68 seconds respectively. 

Junior Ja’Karyus Redwine set the bar for a successful day by finishing the 60-meter dash finals with a time of 6.75 seconds for first place. Morris achieved third place in the event.

WKU scored 57 points total in the three sprinting events. This total was more than what four of the schools at the meet reached during the entire championship.

Regarding field events, seniors Travis Gerding and Cyrus Johnson gave title-winning performances. Gerding achieved top honors in weight throw with a toss of 60-7 1/4 (18.47m). Johnson won the triple jump crown with a leap of 50-7 1/2 (15.43m). This distance is the second best recorded in WKU history.

Sears, who participated in sprinting as well as long jump events, achieved a leap of 25-1 1/4 (7.65m). This is the longest jump in WKU history since 1983. Sears’ sixth place triple jump added points to the overall score as well.

The Lady Toppers second place showing can be attributed to the six all-league performances and five career-bests that the women’s team brought forward.  

Senior Chioma Agwunobi contributed 17 points by notching second place in the 200-meter dash and fifth place in the 60-meter dash.

Agwunobi’s long jump of 19-9 (6.02m) was also her career best and ranked fourth in WKU history.

Sophomore thrower, Jenessa Jackson delivered a career best and runner-up weight throw of 61-2 (18.64m), taking home fourth place with a personal best shot put throw of 48-4 (14.73m). 

Junior Katie Lever clocked a time of 16:54.03 in the 5,000-meter run, which was good for a third place spot.  

The Lady Topper pole vaulters Ria Mollers and Karleigh Parker won second and third place respectively. Parker, a senior, won third place, clearing 12-7 1/2 (3.85m). Mollers, a freshman, also cleared that same distance, but won runner-up due to fewer misses.

“Absolutely,” said Jenkins when asked if he was pleased with the weekend results. “Especially with the lack of us having an indoor training facility here at WKU, and the fact that we were actually out of school for a week because of the weather.”