Peoples Comes Away with SEC Title
COLUMBIA - Kearsten Peoples wasn't about to settle for anything less than a Conference title. The sophomore, who won the Big 12 Championship last year in the discus, continued to bounce back from performances all weekend before finally landing the big one: a 17.80m (58-4.75) final throw in the shot put to clinch the SEC title.
"She's learning how to become the elite thrower. She established a rhythm in the competition, competed well, and never really gave the competition a chance to respond because every time someone got close, she inched it out there a bit farther," said Head Coach Brett Halter. "It's just about stacking the marks, and she's doing that. She had a terrific series today, and it is pretty significant."
It was looking good for Peoples from the start, with a 16.95m (55-7.5) first toss to put her at the front of the pack. She maintained the lead, making improvements with every throw except the third, which was a slight foul but would have put her beyond the 18.00m mark. Her final mark was the third highest to ever win an SEC Championship, behind only Mariam Kevkhishvili from Florida who won in 2009 and 2010 with 59-2.75 and 59-0, respectively. This also puts Peoples up to the No. 3 spot in the nation, according to the Track & Field Results Reporting System (TFRRS) rankings.
"I feel happy, excited, everything at once. Just having that big one that I scratched today, that motivates me going into Regionals. I know I can do it," Peoples said. "I just have to stay calm when i have my next competition, just like I did today."
Another big performer in the womens shot put was sophomore Jill Rushin who barely made it into the final round only to throw down a big mark of 16.28m (53-5) to launch her into third place and an All-SEC finish. Although not quite a season's best for Rushin, she still sits well in the national rankings at No. 20.
"It was awesome, I just had so much adrenaline after [the fourth throw] that I was shaking. But I just kept a positive attitude the whole time, I couldn't let negative thoughts get in my way," Rushin said. "[Having the crowd] was awesome, because I didn't really know where it landed at first. But by the crowd's reaction I knew it was good, so I was excited. And that kept me shaking even more because they were just feeding me the energy."
"She responded like a champion. First throw out of the gate took control and posted a mark that ended up being good for third. That's big time competition," said Halter.
And then, of course, was freshman Markesh Woodson who was the sole freshman on the line against some truly world-class competition and, true to form, showed he can compete with the best. Woodson finished the final with a 10.18 PR and third place for an All-SEC finish, just 0.06 seconds behind the winner Diondre Batson and 0.04 seconds behind Olympian Isiah Young.
"Finishing in the top three as a freshman, I'll take that any time. First thing I thought as I crossed the line was 'I just finished third,' and I just started yelling," Woodson said, before launching off into a stream of thanks to friends, family, coaches, and teammates. "They're just great people. I love them all. Coach Kareem has been working with me and my block starts all year, and it's finally paying off and really showing on the track. I was so happy."
Woodson currently sits at No. 10 in the nation, and is the only freshman to crack into the top ten spots.
"I think he came out and performed brilliantly. We had really good conditions, and he felt the momentum coming in off of the 10.11 yesterday, so I am just really proud of him," said Coach Kareem Streete-Thompson. "The lights come on and he shows up."
Senior Laura Roxberg also made her way onto the All-SEC list for the second time this year, finishing third in the 1500m to close out her career in Walton Stadium with a final time of 4:17.35. Roxberg now enters the final stretch of the season at No. 7 in the nation for the 1500m with her Drake Relays time, 4:13.53.
Other big point scorers for the day include te women's 4x100m relay team, made up of juniors Lauren Flaker and Cara Forte, freshman Chelsie Stevens, and sophomore Sha'Rone Greenlaw. The squad finished seventh overall in 45.88. Moving up into the mid-distance events, senior Blake Irwin brought in four points for the men's squad with his fifth place finish in the 800m run, crossing the line in 1:49.68.
In the men's 5k, Dan Quigley battled it out with the front pack until the end, crossing the line in fourth overall. Quigley's 13:58.68 was a mere 1.51 seconds off from the first place finisher. He will look to continue his season through the next month, as he holds the No. 14 spot in current rankings.
Rounding out the day's scorers was sophomore Katrine Haarklau, who returned to the track today in the javelin throw after her third place finish in yesterday's pole vault. Haarklau finished today's competition in the fourth place position.
Both teams finished well in the Championship meet, with the men coming in at ninth with 37 points, and the women putting down a solid 49 points for sixth.
"I thought that women's team did a terrific job, everyone fought hard. Just a terrific showing, very significant," Halter said. "With the caliber of the SEC Championship, you can be off a little and just be off a mile. So we certainly had some heartache and lost some points, but people fought hard and put some points on the board."
And as the lights turned off in Audrey Walton Stadium for the final time of this first home Championship, Mizzou Track & Field enjoys a brief respite to enjoy the success. They will be back to work soon enough in preparation for the NCAA West Preliminary Round in Austin, TX, in two weeks.
"I'm just overjoyed at the quality of effort, the can-do mentality, that the staff had with this incredible undertaking," said Coach Streete-Thompson. "I'm absolutely blown away. I think all of Columbia should be proud of the job they did hosting this meet."