Track squads step up at home meet

Jonah Phillips

The WKU men’s and women’s track and field teams rose to the occasion in Saturday’s Hilltopper Relays, the only home meet of the season.

Together, the WKU squads compiled nine wins and broke three school records.

“It was a beautiful day, and the kids were really enjoying themselves,” coach Erik Jenkins said. “They’ve been working really hard, and the fruits of their labor are starting to fare.”

Senior jumper Sharika Smith found herself ranked first in the Sun Belt Conference and ninth in the NCAA in the triple jump after she leaped 42-feet-8 inches to nab the win Saturday.

This mark eclipsed her previous school record she set in 2010 of 41-feet-10 inches — a mark which earned her all-American honors.

Sophomore Karleigh Parker became the first Lady Topper in school history to vault over the 13-foot mark in the pole-vault, clearing the bar at 13-feet-3 ½ inches to break the women’s outdoor pole vault record she had previously set of 12-feet-9 ½ inches.  It was the third time she has broken the record in a month’s time.

“I am on the right path to be where I need to be for regionals,” Parker said of her training. “I just need to keep building up my confidence and stick to the path I am on right now.”

Junior sprinter Gelela Cooley came in to the weekend coming off a personal record-setting weekend at the Florida Relays where she ran a time of 53.97 seconds in the 400-meter dash.

Cooley was one of several Toppers to walk away with multiple wins, taking gold in both the 200 and 400-meter dashes with times of 24.12 seconds and 54.40 seconds, respectively.

Junior sprinter Elvyonn Bailey was another Topper walking away with multiple wins, taking the 400-meter dash in 46.66 seconds. He also helped take home the win in the 4×100-meter relay with junior Chris Chamness, freshman Ja’Karyus  Redwine and sophomore Kamohelo Mangojeane.

“Elvyonn went out and ran that relay as well as three individual events,” Jenkins said, “I am very proud of him and all the athletes that went out and competed and put themselves in good positions moving forward.”

All-Sun Belt Conference high jumper sophomore Cyrus Johnson earned his first win of the season in the event, leaping 6-feet-9 inches to claim top honors.

Junior thrower Jessica Ramsey, who currently leads the Sun Belt in the shot put, finished second with a throw of 49-feet-4 ½ inches. Ramsey also notched a third and fourth place respectively in the discus and hammer throw.

Fellow junior thrower Satrina Oliveira threw the discus 157-feet-7 inches, good for a second-place finish and a second-place ranking in the Sun Belt.

The male throwers also found great success this weekend, with sohomore Travis Gerding and senior Houston Croney both breaking personal records in second-place finishes — Gerding in the shot put with a throw of 51-feet-3 inches, and Croney in the hammer throw with a heave worth 182-feet-11 inches.

“We’ve been really going over technique,” Gerding said in regards to recent training. ”Hitting it hard, working on our footwork, our back, and staying level.”

The Lady Topper distance runners dominated the 5,000-meter run, taking five of the top seven spots. Freshman Louise Hill-Stirling lead the charge with the win in 18:16.25. Fellow freshman Katie Lever finished third while senior Kim Dominguez, senior Brianne Porter and senior Madison Hale finished fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively.  

“Not only did we come out and perform very well, but we had schools come and give performances that put them in their respective top five’s,” Jenkins said.  “Our meet is starting to get recognized as a meet you can run throw and jump well in, which is good for WKU.”

Both WKU track and field teams will return to the track next weekend at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Cal. and the Vanderbilt Invitational in Nashville, Tenn.