On Feb. 22 and 23, the Southern Miss Track and Field squads competed in the Conference USA Indoor Championships. The men’s and women’s teams overall finished seventh and sixth respectively, with several individuals achieving podium finishes in their events.
The Golden Eagles were without several prior top-three finishers and double-digit scorers, who graduated or transferred out last year.
“We did lose some very good athletes,” head coach Jon Stuart said. “We are expecting leadership from a few upperclassmen who were a part of the 2018 championship team, but we are very young.”
Ashlee Osaji, a member of the large freshman squad this year, barely missed a podium finish in the women’s long jump. She finished fourth with a jump of 6.03 meters. Lance Williams, another freshman long jumper, finished fifth for the men’s team by jumping 7.06 meters.
DJ Butler, whose performance has been a “nice surprise” to Stuart, placed sixth in the 400 meter dash as a freshman. Elijah Miller, a transfer from Tennessee, and Dylan Evans, another freshman, were both able to qualify for finals and score in the 60 meter and 800 meter dashes respectively.
“We’ve got a good group of young people, and it is just going to take time for them to develop,” Stuart said. “You can’t sneak up on success.”
However, for many on the Southern Miss Track and Field team, success was achieved this weekend. Southern Miss started strong on the first day of competition. Junior Callie Jones earned bronze hardware in the women’s pentathlon, placing number one in both the 60 meter hurdles and shot put sections.
“That was only the second pentathlon I’ve ever done,” Jones said. “Not being able to prepare how I know I could have just shows that I have a lot left in the tank.”
Following the pentathlon events, Eric Richards soared over 2.12 meters in the men’s high jump to win his second straight gold medal at CUSA Indoors. On his final jump, though, Richards went down, unable to walk off the mat without assistance. According to Stuart, the extent of his injuries are unknown. Richards will be seeing a physician to determine how they will move forward on the situation.
During the day one running events, sophomore Lina May took third in the women’s 5k race with a time of 17:00, a 30 second improvement to her personal best and third in school history for the event.
“Getting a medal wasn’t even a goal for the day, so it was pretty unexpected,” May said. “I’m excited for the rest of the year.”
Theresa Harto also scored in the event, taking sixth with a time of 17:14.
Southern Miss closed out the first day by taking gold in the women’s distance medley relay, an event that Golden Eagles have silvered in the last three years at conference. The DMR team consisted of Sandra Szpott, Taylor Harris, as well as Savannah and Sarah McMillon. The team took a commanding lead after Savannah handed the baton to her sister Sarah who ran a personal best, sub-five-minute mile as the final leg.
“I was nervous when I got the baton in first,” Sarah said. “I just knew I needed to hold that lead.”
During day two, several athletes who qualified the day prior were able to score for the team. Szpott took fourth in the women’s mile. Christian Strong and Jasmine Griffin both scored for the men’s and women’s teams in the 60 meter hurdles.
In the 400 meter race, Trey Johnson and DJ Butler scored for the men’s team. Elijah Burton and Elijah Miller went sixth and seventh in the 60 meter dash, and Dylan Evans took sixth in the men’s 800 meters.
Szpott, May and Harto all went under 10 minutes in the women’s 3000 meter, with Szpott and May scoring points for the team. Patton Little ran a time of 8:22 in the men’s 3000 meter and placed sixth.
During the second day of field events, Zaria Jones narrowly missed the podium and took fourth in the women’s high jump, jumping 1.70 meters. Marquasha Myers placed fifth in the women’s triple jump with a height of 12.14 meters. Freshman Tyler Proctor was able to score in the men’s triple jump as well.
The young Southern Miss teams ended their indoor season with eyes on more medals and top team finishes. They are now preparing for the outdoor season, which starts competition in Mobile, Alabama, on March 20.
Athletes like May and Jones showed their excitement for the outdoor season, with May mentioning she was “pumped to see what the team can do.”