Wildcats face tough foes in Iowa

02/01/08

A highly competitive meet in Ames, Iowa, sent the Baker University track and field teams home with fewer medals but much more experience and improvement.

The Wildcats competed in the Iowa State Invitational Friday and Saturday, a meet consisting of a wide variety of schools ranging from Division I, II, National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and junior colleges from around the country.

"There were a lot of schools, it was by far the biggest meet we've been to yet," head coach Zach Kindler said. "It was strong competition, with a lot of athletes in each event."

The meet did not keep team scores but recorded individual results. The men's front-runner was sophomore Kome Okiomah, who captured a fifth place finish in the 60-meter dash. His time of 6.97 seconds also qualified him for nationals. Okiomah also finished 16th in the 200-meter dash, where his time was good enough to break a Baker indoor school record, previously set by himself.

"It's exciting that I'm getting better and improving," Okiomah said. "It's always nice to see improvements."

For the women, junior Chelsey Ornburn lifted herself to a third place finish in the pole vault and qualified for nationals for the first time during the indoor season.

"It was a great feeling," Ornburn said. "It's just like it was last year when I qualified to go to nationals for the first time in my college career; I was just as excited. There have been so many people that have qualified. It's a great group of people and I look forward to going and traveling to Tennessee with them."

Several other women had strong showings. Sophomore Ashlee Miller placed fourth in long jump to break her own Baker indoor record for the second week in a row. Miller also finished 13th in high jump. Junior Kayla Irwin finished tenth in the pole vault and junior Katey Wegemer placed 15th in the 600-yard dash, a time also good for a Baker indoor record.

Kindler said he was pleased with the team's progress and improvement from the meet. He said he thinks the level of competition helped Baker's performance as well.

"That's why I think we performed so well, the higher level of competition brings out the better performance in each athlete," Kindler said.

Ornburn, alike, said the level of competition at Iowa State elevated the athletes to succeed.

"It was a big atmosphere with higher level teams, and I think it really brought out the competitiveness in us and made us want to strive to do better," she said.

Kindler said several athletes' performances were strong enough to put them on the Baker top five all-time lists. He said sophomores Aaron Hannon and Jackie Koch reached the No. 2 spot on the lists for the men's 200-meter dash and women's weight throw, respectively.

The 'Cats will continue their indoor season at the Cornel Hilltop Invitational in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Kindler said the level of competition won't be as high as it was at the Iowa State meet, but it will be a good opportunity for the whole team to travel, compete and see where the athletes stand. Okiomah said he has high hopes for the upcoming meet.

"We'll do very well," he said. "We did well last year, and I plan to place first."

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