By Patrick Cooley, Sports Editor
The UNO track and field team finished fourth this past weekend at the MIAA Indoor Track and Field Championship in Warrensburg, Mo.
Despite winning five individual events, the Mavs couldn’t muster enough points to defend their 2010 title.
MIAA newcomer Lincoln University, the defending Division II indoor national champion, won the three-day long championship scoring 113 points. The top-ranked Blue Tigers dominated the sprints, taking the top-four spots in the 60 and 400-meter dashes as well as placing 1-2 in the 200-meter dash.
The Mavs used four first-place finishes in the field events to stay competitive.
Nkeiruka Domike broke the MIAA record in the triple jump with a leap of 43-8, more than three feet further than runner-up Stephany Johnson of Central Missouri. Domike also won the long jump with a personal-best of 19-5 1/4.
Despite the Nigerian’s dominating performance, it was the versatility of Kathie-Lee Laidley that stood out to UNO Head Coach Steve Smith. Laidley made the finals in both the triple jump and high jump. The only problem was the two finals were taking place simultaneously.
“It was a big challenge,” Laidley said.
“She was having to run back and forth,” Smith said. “She had to change her shoes and then hustle over to the other event. It’s just one of those weird scheduling things.”
Laidley took fourth in the triple jump with a mark of 18-7, and won the high jump with a jump of 5-8 3/4.
“She really impressed me winning the high jump against older, more seasoned veterans,” Smith said.
Seniors Heather Minssen and Anja Puc also took first-place for the Mavs. Minssen won the shot put with a throw of 48-9, beating the competition by nearly a foot and a half. Puc defended her 800-meter championship from 2010, posting a winning time of 2:16.83. She also placed sixth in the mile, despite being hampered by a foot injury.
Host Central Missouri scored 81 points and Missouri Southern finished 73 to beat out the Mavs, who ended the championships with 71 points.
“We’re a little disappointed, but we had some great performances” Smith said. “Lincoln is just loaded with sprinters from the (Caribbean) Islands. Their entire team is sprinters from Jamaica.”
Lincoln Head Coach Victor Thomas, a Kingston, Jamaica, native, has emphasized Carribean recruitment since coming to the Jefferson City, Mo. school eight seasons ago. The Blue Tigers’ roster features 17 Jamaican-born athletes and one Bahamas native.
“It’s so different to watch those kids work out,” Lincoln Assistant Athletic Director Brian Kortz said. “They just have their own inner drive – it’s incredible. Coach Thomas doesn’t have to mess around recruiting field events, because he relies on his sprinters and jumpers from Jamaica. It’s his bread and butter and it has worked for a long time.”
UNO also boasts a heavily international roster. Nine of the Mavs’ 23 track and field members have hometowns outside of the United States. Four hail from Jamaica, including Laidley who decided against attending Lincoln.
“I really didn’t want to go to another Jamaican culture,” Laidley said. “I wanted a new experience. It was nerve-racking competing against so many fellow-Jamaicans at first, but I have gotten used to it.”
The Mavs’ may send a couple athletes to the NCAA Qualifier at Iowa State this weekend in preparation for the NCAA Division II Indoor Championship March 11-12 in Albuquerque, N.M.
“We’re getting ready for Nationals,” Smith said. “We’re still fourth in Division II and when you’re in the top 10, anything can happen.”