’Cats set minds on HAAC titles

Junior Jeremy Gathright competes in the long jump Saturday in the Wildcat Open at Liston Stadium. Gathright won the long jump and also broke an 87-year-old school record in the 400-meter dash.

Junior Jeremy Gathright competes in the long jump Saturday in the Wildcat Open at Liston Stadium. Gathright won the long jump and also broke an 87-year-old school record in the 400-meter dash. Photo by Pat Howell.

The Baker University track and field team has faced a variety of competition in its last few meets, but was able to use the Wildcat Open Saturday at Liston Stadium to relax and prepare for the Heart of America Athletic Conference Championships.

“For the most part we were really excited about (the Wildcat Open),” head coach Zach Kindler said. “It was a time where you can just go out and see a couple of events on each kid and really focus on certain areas. It gives us an opportunity to see where we are lined up at conference and really give them a down week for total volume.”

In the Wildcat Open the team grabbed 13 event-championships and two school records.

Junior Jeremy Gathright set a new record in the 400-meter dash, a record previously set in 1925.

Gathright also had first place-finishes in the 200-meter dash and the long jump.

Baker Orange staff writer Katie Thurbon had a lifetime best performance and set a school record in the pole vault. Thurbon has the best seasonal mark not only in the HAAC, but the NAIA.

Gathright and Thurbon were both named HAAC Athletes of the Week Monday for their performances.

“We had a number of great performances this weekend,” Kindler said. “I’m just very excited about moving into conference this week, and how the kids are really starting to come on at this point.”

Kindler also said he was impressed by sophomore Valerie Schirmer’s performances in the shot put and hammer throw.

Schirmer took first in the shot put with a 12.68 meter-throw and second in the hammer with a throw of 41.16 meters.

The Wildcats will compete in the conference meet Friday in Lamoni, Iowa, where they will look to grab two more championships.

Both the men’s and women’s teams won the HAAC Indoor Championships Feb. 18, but the men will try to win the outdoor championship for the second consecutive year.

The men’s team will also look to complete the “triple crown” after already sweeping the cross country and indoor track titles.

“I think the guy’s team is really hungry for a conference title as a whole,” junior Parker Bryant said. “I think we really want that triple crown.”

The ’Cats are headed into the meet with 70 top-five seeds, more than any other conference team.

“It’s not about times this week, it’s about places,” senior Rae Lynne Stewart said. “If people believe they have reached their personal bests this meet is such a big deal that the competition is just going to push them over. Everyone is going to show up. It’s going to be good.”

Kindler said the Wildcats have the ultimate goal of winning conference on both sides, but have definite competition in Central Methodist University.

“Central Methodist on both the guys and girls side will be the team to beat,” Kindler said. “They’re a very talented and young team that has a lot of depth.”

The meet will begin at 10 a.m. Friday with the decathlon long jump.

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