February 26, 2018 10:34:13 AM
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The Alabama men's indoor track and field team won its first conference title since 1972 Sunday at the Southeastern Conference Championships at Texas A&M's Gilliam Indoor Track & Field Stadium.
In second place after Saturday's events, the Crimson Tide roared to the front of the pack behind a 21-point performance in the 5,000 meters and four additional top-three finishes on Sunday to clinch the crown. Alabama scored 91 points to edge Arkansas.
"This was a total team championship," Alabama coach Dan Waters said. "Everyone contributed. One of the most impressive things about this championship was where the points came from. Triple jumper Christian Edwards finished second. Kord Ferguson finishing second in the shot put with an amazing mark. Shelby McEwen winning the high jump for our only individual title. Our distance runners scoring 31 points in the 3,000 and 5,000. It was a total team effort and that's how we built this program. Everyone chipped in one way or another."
Ole Miss tied for ninth with 31 points, while Mississippi State was 12th (21 points).
On the women's side, Arkansas (108 points) won the team title. Georgia took second (84.5). Ole Miss was seventh (42), Alabama was eighth (37), and MSU was 10th (31).
The conference crown is the sixth indoor championship in school history for Alabama. The men's team won the SEC in 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, and 1972.
Alabama entered the day trailing Saturday leader Florida, 30.5-28 following junior Shelby McEwen's win in the high jump, a second place finish by senior Daniel Haugh in the weight throw and third- and fifth-place finishes by Vincent Kiprop and Gilbert Kigen, respectively, in the 3,000.
The Gators extended the lead with multiple scorers in Sunday's first-five events, but senior Ruebin Walters and junior Keitavious Walter kept the Tide within striking distance with second- and seventh-place finishes in the 60 hurdles and 60, respectively.
However, it was the longest race of the day that catapulted the Crimson Tide into championship contention, as juniors Kigen, Kiprop, and seniors Alfred Chelanga and Conner Thompson finished 2-3-5-6 in the 5,000 for 21 points to push Alabama into a lead it would not relinquish.
Alabama continued to pile up the points as senior Will Herrscher and freshman Jake Spotswood finished 3-4 in the pole vault. Freshman Christian Edwards and junior Kord Ferguson added second-place finishes in the triple jump and shot put, respectively, and Walter finished sixth in the 200. Alabama clinched the championship with an eighth-place finish in the 4x400 relay, the final event of the evening.
Leading the way for the Alabama women Sunday were freshman Daija Lampkin and junior Stacey Destin. Lampkin finished fifth in the 200 in 23.16 seconds. They teamed with sophomores Takyera Roberson and Symone Darius and freshman Tamar Clark for the fourth-fastest time in Alabama history in the 4x400-meter relay (fourth, 3 minutes, 34.50 seconds).
For MSU, senior Logan Boss won the high jump with a meet-record mark of 1.91 meters (6 feet, 3 ¼ inches).
"Things seem to come together well for me here," she said. "I got third at nationals last year, a personal-best, that was kind of where it all started coming together. I was happy to come back because I like jumping here."
Boss attempted to jump 1.94m, the mark needed to enter international competition and set a SEC record, but she came up short. It appeared she had cleared on her second try, but the bar wobbled on its pedestals before eventually falling.
"I want that 1.94m because that's the mark you need to hit as a high jumper, but it was close, so close," Boss said. "It just gives me a little confidence boost that I know I can do it again, maybe in two weeks."
MSU claimed five total medals in the competition, highlighted by Dejon Devroe and Daniel Nixon taking home silver and bronze, respectively, in the 800.
Rhiannwedd Price-Weimer earned the silver medal in the mile, then picked up her second medal as a member of the distance medley relay team that finished third. Mia Meydrich, Keturah Smith, and Alon Lewis opened that event before she ran the mile leg.
"This was a good day," MSU coach Steve Dudley said. "We got better as the meet went on, and part of that was probably the athletes feeding off the success of their teammates. For our team to score 52 points, the most in over a decade at this meet, is huge."
MSU narrowly missed the podium in the women's weight throw, as Brianna Smith placed fourth. Tiffany Flynn earned a point in both the 60 hurdles and the triple jump with eight-place finishes.
Willie-Lionel Reed finished eighth in the heptathlon with 4,332 points. Both of the men's relays finished sixth to pick up three more points apiece.
Senior Janeah Stewart led the way for Ole Miss. She shared the Cliff Harper Trophy after tying with Georgia's Keturah Orji for the most points in the field events with 18.
For Stewart, 10 of those points came Sunday with her second-straight SEC title in the women's weight throw. Stewart, who entered ranked No. 2 nationally and No. 4 all-time in the NCAA, went wire-to-wire for the win, ending with a new facility record on her sixth and final toss of 23.06 meters (75-8). This is the first time an SEC athlete has went back-to-back in the women's weight since 2013 and 2014 when LSU's Denise Hilton took the titles.
Freshman Shey Taiwo also scored in the event in fifth in her first collegiate conference meet, throwing 19.77 meter (64-10 1/2).
The most exciting portion of the day for Ole Miss was in the men's mile final, where senior Sean Tobin and freshman Everett Smulders used great teamwork toward a high Rebel finish. Tobin repeated as the mile champ at 4:07.14, but he helped bring along the freshman Smulders, who took third place in his first conference meet at 4:07.58.
Tobin was the also the leadoff leg for the Ole Miss men's distance medley relay, which was going for its fifth-straight conference DMR title. The Rebel quartet of Tobin (1,200, 2:58.43), Alvin Westbrook (400-meters, 48.53), Waleed Suliman (800, 1:48.31) and Robert Domanic (1,600, 4:01.83) ran a great race, but Arkansas edged Domanic at the line by seven hundredths of a second to snare the victory.
Ole Miss finished runner-up for a silver medal at 9:37.08, which is the sixth-fastest DMR time in school history.
Junior Maddie McHugh finished third in the women's 800. In the prelims Saturday, McHugh nudged her way into an auto-qualifier spot after winning Heat Three. On Sunday, she did so again, snatching third with a lean at one hundredth of a second at a season-best 2:06.27.
Suliman also represented Ole Miss in the 800, taking fourth in the men's edition at 1:50.91.
Fellow freshman Clio Ozanne-Jaques continued her impressive first campaign with the Rebels with a fourth-place finish in the women's 5K at a 13-second PR time of 16:36.69 - the seventh-best in Ole Miss history.
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