Track teams resting for conference

Lucas Aulbach

With the 2011 outdoor track and field season coming down to the final two weeks, most members of the WKU teams will be able to enjoy some rest before the Sun Belt Conference Championships.

The championships will take place from May 13-15 at Middle Tennessee. While some of the team will compete at a meet in Indiana this weekend, the majority of the team has the weekend off.

They might need it, too. Assistant Coach Jarrett Murphy called the Sun Belt “highly competitive” this year.

“I think this coming weekend will really help the kids mentally prepare for the challenges next weekend,” he said.

While most of the athletes won’t be in action this weekend, a group of about 20 will travel to Bloomington, Ind., to compete in a meet at Indiana University. Head Coach Erik Jenkins called the event a “final tune-up for conference” for those attending.

“Everyone else is staying here to rest and sharpen up,” he said. “The base work is already done. At this point, the only preparation left is mental.”

Jenkins has seen his fair share of conference championships. He’s been an assistant and then head coach for WKU throughout the women’s run of 16 consecutive indoor, outdoor and cross country Sun Belt titles.

Murphy said the women’s team would be under even more pressure than they usually are next weekend.

“The women’s team always has a big target on their back when they compete, and that’s especially true at conference,” he said.

Jenkins said he hopes the athletes will be able to feed off the escalated competition.

“Athletes are always looking to step up when they compete against us,” he said. “Hopefully we can use that as motivation.”

Freshman Antqunita Reed was a part of the teams’ indoor championship in February and having recently come back from a knee injury, is ready to compete.

“We’re just going to do what we have to do — go out and compete,” she said. “We’re ready to go for it, No. 17.”

The teams’ lineup for conference, which Jenkins said is determined by conference ranking, hasn’t been set yet.

The Sun Belt championship is the last event of the year for most members of the teams. Some athletes may be eligible to compete in the NCAA National Outdoor Championships, which will take place in June.

Jenkins said the teams are going to need to peak next weekend to come out on top.

“This is the biggest meet for all of us,” he said. “This is it. We’ve done the work, and it’s time to perform. That’s just the bottom line.”

Murphy said the work the athletes will do coming down the stretch will determine how the teams fare.

“The keys are going to be staying relaxed and staying focused,” he said. “Everyone is really trying to work on what they need to do at the championship. We’re going to have to run like crazy to win it.”