Sports Brief: Track places third

Amber North

Although they didn’t come out on top, they didn’t come out as losers either.

The men’s track team placed third in the Sun Belt Championships while the women finished fourth. Both Middle Tennessee teams took home the crown for the third consecutive year.

The MTSU men dominated the meet as they collected 157 total points; Western earned a total of 66 points.

On the women’s side, Western gathered 95 points, a close race between second-place winner, North Texas (99) and third-place winner Florida International (98).

Distance trio senior Olga Cronin, sophomore Bonita Paul and sophomore Cara Nichols swept all-conference honors in the 3,000-meter run, placing first, second and third, respectively.

In the mile run, Nichols took first as Paul placed second.

Cronin set a new conference championship record in the 5,000-meter run, winning with a time of 17:02.52. Paul, once again, placed second.

Cronin’s perfect performance was highlighted when she, as the last leg of the distance medley relay team, came from behind to help win it for Western. Other runners from that relay included sophomore Rachel Sanford, freshman Shanea Wilson and sophomore Cheyenne Carmack.

Paul was the top point-scorer of the meet with her three second-place finishes, totaling 24 points.

To top that off, Curtiss Long was picked as Women’s Coach of the Year, his 16th time earning such an achievement in the Sun Belt.

The men’s throwers led the way for Western, scoring 37 of its 66 points. Sophomore Raigo Toompu placed second in both the weight throw and shot put, earning himself an all-conference bid. Junior Ryan Thomas was third in the weight throw and achieved his second all-conference accolade for the second year.

The Hilltopper team will be idle for two weeks to prepare for their first outdoor meet on March 20 at the Alabama Relays in Tuscaloosa, Ala.