Lady Tops looking for lucky No. 13

Jonathan Lintner

Thirteen — that’s the number of consecutive Sun Belt Conference Championships the Lady Toppers hope to say they’ve won after this weekend.

Individual accolades aside, senior sprinter Kellie Morrison said Western is focused on bringing home the winner’s trophy from the Sun Belt Indoor Track and Field Championships in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

“I do not want to sound cliché by any means, but there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team,’” Morrison said in an e-mail. “Every individual effort is as good as the team gets. We all have to take care of our business, get the job done in our respective events, and that’s all we as a team can hope for. We just have to get it done.”

Head Coach Erik Jenkins said he knows what it takes to be successful and win championships.

Jenkins has not lost a women’s cross country, indoor or outdoor, conference championship since February 2006.

“Everybody has to do what they’re capable of doing or beyond,” Jenkins said. “I think our ladies over the years have shown they are willing to do that and are continuing to do it at a high level.”

Recruiting quality student athletes is a step toward building a contender, but that’s just the beginning, he said.

“You’ve also got to recruit a person that can come in and perform and score in the conference championship,” he said.

Jenkins, who described success as a “two-edged sword,” served as an assistant for eight years before being named head coach in January 2008.

The Lady Toppers now have a reputation, and the rest of the Sun Belt is ready to knock Western off its pedestal, he said.

“The day you get ahead of yourself — that’s when you’re going to start having problems,” he said.

Jenkins dismissed the idea that the pressure of past success had had an impact on the athletes.

But Morrison said it’s hard to ignore what’s at stake.

“We definitely must keep our focus, not be complacent,” she said. “But know that we are going to compete as a team to later collect the championship trophy.”

Senior sprinter Gavin Smellie said the men’s team has taken notice of their female teammates’ hard work.

“It’s definitely motivating to see the women dominate conference every year,” Smellie said in an e-mail. “Their success has pushed me and the rest of the men’s team to work harder in order to become just like them.”

Jenkins echoed Morrison’s assertion that the brunt of the work has already been done, and it all boils down to one thing.

“It’s a simple approach,” he said. “Take care of what you can … and we’ll see who’s standing tall at the end of the day.”