Rio Grande --- Over 300 athletes will descend on the University of Rio Grande campus for this weekend's Mid-South Conference Men's and Women's Track & Field Championships to be held at the Stockmeister Track & Field Complex, Friday and Saturday.
This is the second consecutive year that Rio Grande has hosted the event. "It's outstanding for the university, it brings a lot of notoriety to the school through the Mid-South Conference," said Rio Grande head coach Bob Willey. "Also for the area, it brings in a lot of revenue for the hotels and restaurants. For the people in the area it's a chance for them to see an outstanding track and field meet."
Shorter is the defending champion for both the men and women and the Hawks will likely be the odds-on favorite to take the title this season as well, although eight other teams may have something to say about that. "They (Shorter) do an outstanding job, their program is a cut above the rest of us," Willey said. "You never like to go in hoping for second place. Last year there were just a few points that separated second and fifth, so it will be a dogfight trying to see whose going to finish right there behind them."
"They are outstanding, they have some outstanding athletes that are not only All-Americans, but national champions," Willey added. "Lindsey Wilson has some tremendous athletes, Cumberlands, everybody in our conference has those outstanding individuals - it's just being able to pack enough them together to score big points."
Shorter won the NAIA Indoor National Championships this past winter.
The Rio men finished a strong third last season while the women finished fifth, both will have to compete well to be in the hunt this season.
At the meet last year, numerous MSC and Stockmeister Track and Field complex records were set and if the weather is good this year more records are expected to fall. "We've got some tremendous performers in our conference, a lot of All-Americans. I know last year the meet went very well and the track ran very fast and we set a lot of track records and a lot of conference records last year," Willey said. "If the weather cooperates hopefully we can do the same thing this year. Right now the forecast looks pretty good, I hope it stays that way."
Some of the top athletes who will be performing on the women's side are Carly Evans, Nathelie Zetrenne and Tiosha Bailey of Campbellsville, Ashlie Stewartson and Tamela Daley of Shorter and Lauren Kachel of Cumberlands. All of these young ladies have earned the Mid-South Conference track and field athletes of the week honor this season.
Rio Grande will be strong in the throwing events as the RedStorm went 1-2-3 in the hammer throw last season and all three finishers are back this season in junior Tracie Brown (Logan, OH), senior Rachel Walker (Ironton, OH) and junior Cory Crutcher (Eaton, OH). Brown and Walker were 1-2 in the discus last year as well. Sophomore Kim Strunk (Milford, OH) won the shot put and will be back to defend her title.
Junior Cassie Mattia (West Chester, OH) will be another RedStorm athlete to watch for in this meet.
Some of the notables on the men's side are Brendan Kelly, Kyle Belcher and Jeremy Brading from Cumberlands, Ricardo Vergara and Josh Kles from Lindsey Wilson, P.J. Randles and Detrick Briggs from Campbellsville and Paul Chelimo and Nick Dodson from Shorter, just to name a few.
The distance men and the sprinters for Rio Grande will be counted on heavily to score in this meet. Juniors Nick Wilson (Barlow, OH) and Chad McCarty (Tipp City, OH) have performed well this spring. Senior Justin Francisco (Belpre, OH) in the hurdles, sophomore Jay Butler (Cincinnati, OH) in the sprints and senior Kyle Hively (Vinton, OH) in the race walk will need to be on top of their game.
"Our athletes have worked very hard and we focus very much in our program on the conference championship," Willey said. "We're just trying to do the best we can, we're trying to see where we can score and last year we didn't have many of our distance runners on the men's and women's side due to a lot of injuries. This year we have quite a few of our distance runners back, but we're just hoping to be able to place with our sprinters, we have a few jumpers and hurdlers."
"Our throwers did a great job for us on the women's side last year, we're really hoping that they can repeat what they did," Willey added. "We've got some men throwers this year that should be able to help us."
There will be a $5 admission charge for adults and $3 for students. Rio students will gain free admittance with student identification. Programs will also be available for $1.
For a schedule of events please log onto http://www.rioredstorm.com/f/2011_Mid_South_Conference_Schedule.doc.phpor http://www.mid-southconference.org/f/MSC_Track_and_Field_Championships/2011.php.