Track team prepares for classic

Freshman Hannah McAllister runs toward her teammate to handoff the baton at a recent practice. The Racers won 12 events in Bowling Green last week. || Taylor McStoots/The News
Freshman Hannah McAllister runs toward her teammate to handoff the baton at a recent practice. The Racers won 12 events in Bowling Green last week. || Taylor McStoots/The News

Freshman Hannah McAllister runs toward her teammate to handoff the baton at a recent practice. The Racers won 12 events in Bowling Green last week. || Taylor McStoots/The News

After winning 12 events at the Margaret Simmons Invitational last week, the track team is preparing to compete at the Western Kentucky Hilltopper Classic in Bowling Green, Ky., Saturday.

The Racers managed to compile multiple season and career bests at Margaret Simmons, with sophomore thrower Tonia Pratt winning all three of her events. In the hammer throw, she won by more than 12 meters to set a new career-high throw of 174-11. She also tied her season best in shot put with a heave of 45-5.

Sophomore LaShea Shaw dominated the 200-meter dash event when she ran a career-high time of 25 minutes, 54 seconds.

Head Coach Jenny Severns said she thinks the success at last week’s invitational will carry momentum when they travel to Bowling Green.

“Everybody competed really well,” she said. “They’re just really learning how to run their races, and it’s showing through these events. Tonia Pratt and LaShea Shaw are always stepping up. Even our freshmen are doing well at indoor meets. I’m expecting really big things for them outdoors, also.”

Old and new competition will be present at the Hilltopper Classic, including Grand Valley State, Bowling Green and Western Kentucky. OVC-familiar opponents such as Eastern Illinois, SIU Edwardsville and Tennessee Tech will also be working toward a promising position in the OVC tournament, alongside the Racers.

“With teams like Tennessee Tech and Eastern Illinois, we’re always really competitive at the conference level,” Severns said. “Those will be really good teams to beat. SIU Edwardsville beat us by one point in the indoor events, so we obviously want to return the favor outdoors. We are always competitive against Western Kentucky, so it will also be good to see how well we race against them.”

Murray State is competing in multiple sprinting and distance events, including the 4 x 1 and the 100- and 200-meter dash. Standouts like senior sprinter Alexis Love are key components to the Racers’ speed advantage.

Love was named the 2012 Female Track Athlete of the Year in the OVC, as well as the Athlete of the OVC Outdoor Championships. Her personal best time for the outdoor 100-meter dash is 11.94 seconds, keeping her far ahead of the majority of her competition.

While Severns said she was confident in sprinting, she said Love wants to improve across the board.

“We kind of do a little bit of everything before going to the OVCs,” she said. “Each week, we try to work on something different. For the distance, the girls who typically run a 10K will run different events such as 3K to improve the different aspects of their racing. Is there always something we can work on? Absolutely.”

With the OVC tournament one month away, athletes like freshman distance runner Emma Gilmore see the Hilltopper Classic as a way to showcase a strong roster in all events.

“We’re going into this meet with a confidence boost,” Gilmore said. “I think we’re really strong across the board. Everybody showed that they’re working hard and you can’t really put a finger on where we aren’t doing well. Everything is going well for us.”

Despite the advantage, tournament-style competition brings a new level of intensity for which the Racers need to prepare for. In order to be physically and mentally ready for the Hilltopper Classic, the team is focusing more on technique and resting to go and race well.

“I definitely have some personal goals,” Gilmore said. “We’re focusing on the little things to get better. We just need to keep the morale up and going.”

The Racers will compete in the Hilltopper Classic at 9 a.m. Saturday in Bowling Green, Ky.

Story by Carly Besser, Assistant Sports Editor.