Toppers out for indoor title repeat

Jonah Phillips

Coming off a men’s Sun Belt Conference cross country championship, WKU’s track and field will be looking to carry over that success into the upcoming indoor track season.

The 2012-2013 indoor track season is set to begin on Dec. 8 when the Toppers travel to Murfreesboro, Tenn., for the Middle Tennessee Christmas Invitational.  

The Topper men won the Sun Belt Conference indoor title last season in an effort that current junior David Mokone spearheaded. Mokone set the tone for the 2012 indoor season after breaking the WKU 800-meter indoor record twice in a three-week span.

Mokone continued his dominance through competition at the Sun Belt Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships by winning the mile run in a championship record time of 4:10.08.

Mokone also finished second in the 800-meter and third in distance relay team to capture the meet’s Most Outstanding Track Performer honor.

“I think everyone on the team has a chance to have a superb season, especially our senior Joseph (Chebet),” Mokone said. “I know he will want to go out with outstanding times.”

Coach Erik Jenkins echoed the same enthusiasm for Chebet, who finished 35th at the NCAA Cross Country Championships earlier this month.

 “Joseph performed well at Nationals almost two weeks ago,” Jenkins said, “He’s ready for a long indoor and outdoor season.”

As for the rest of the Topper squad, Jenkins still sees them as inspired coming off the cross country season.

“The boys are still ready to compete,” Jenkins said.

But while long distance runners ike Chebet and Mokone have already finished the cross country season, many of WKU’s track and field athletes will see their first competition of the year next weekend.

“(Junior sprinter) Marcus Winstead will be a big and immediate contributor for us this season,” Jenkins said. “He has had two strong track seasons so far, and we look for him to have even a stronger third.”

Another name to keep in mind is sophomore jumper Cyrus Johnson, who has faith in the direction the coaching staff has the team moving in.

“This year, the coaching staff prepared more than just a team, they are preparing NCAA champions,” Johnson said.

The Lady Topper track squad will have to look to new standouts after the departures of thrower Monteka Flowers and jumper Jade Nimmo.

Sophomore Karleigh Parker may be able to fill the shoes. Parker set and re-set the WKU record books in her first year, ultimately placing the pole-vault record at 12-1.5.

Parker’s record mark came at the Sun Belt Indoor Championships, finishing second and gaining All-Sun Belt honors.

“The coaching staff is doing a tremendous job preparing us,” Parker said. “They pushed us very hard both in the weight room and running workouts.”

Once competition picks back up, the Toppers have a busy schedule. They have eight competitions standing between them and the Sun Belt Championships on Feb. 23.

“We are going to take advantage of our strengths, take the competition meet by meet and do everything we can to be successful in the conference championship,” Jenkins said.