BU track and field team brings home conference title

Senior Aaron Hannon barely crossed the finish line of the 4x400-meter relay Saturday before he was tackled by his elated teammates.

Prior to the final event of the HAAC Outdoor Championships, the Baker University men's track and field team knew it had won the conference title.

"It was pandemonium," assistant coach Brent Bailey said. "(Hannon) came across that line and held up that Wildcats baton and put up the No. 1 (sign). ‘Show 'em the belt' was being chanted. There was just complete ruckus and excitement everywhere."

First place finishes from sophomores Taylor Nall, steeplechase, and Jeremy Gathright, triple jump, led the team at the meet.

Nine second-place finishes also helped the Wildcats clinch the conference championship.

Junior Devin Wilson tore his hamstring while competing in the 4x100-meter relay, but continued to compete for the Wildcats.

"He had to limp the whole way (during the 100-yard dash) in excruciating pain but it got a standing ovation from the crowd," Bailey said. "Everybody was just so excited to see somebody so selfless."

The women's team placed third, finishing behind Lindenwood University and William Jewell College.

"A top-three finish in this conference is really exciting because this is the last year that Lindenwood and William Jewell are going to be here and they will both be (moving to NCAA Division II)," Bailey said. "So, to say that we lost to two Division II schools next year really isn't that bad of a deal."

Baker Orange staff member Katie Thurbon led the way for the women with a first place finish in the pole vault.

Freshman Stephanie Nelson and senior Aubree Gustin placed second and third respectively in the javelin throw.

Although head coach Zach Kindler was not able to attend the meet, due to the birth of his third child, he was named the HAAC Coach of the Year on the men's side at the conclusion of the meet.

Kindler will coach 11 athletes at the NAIA Outdoor Championships in Marion, Ind., and said his expectations are pretty high.

"I think that on both sides, we have some individuals that could be All-American potential," Kindler said. "We have a number of top-five individuals already."

Going into nationals, junior J.L. Anderson hopes to reach All-American status for the first time.

"In the previous two years, I have not been able to make it out of the (preliminary round) because of stiff competition," Anderson said. "And so hopefully this year I can make it out of the prelims and into the finals."

Before heading to nationals, some of the Wildcats will participate in the Emporia State University Twilight meet May 14 in Emporia.

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