The performance of East Tennessee State jumpers at the 34th annual Niswonger Invitational at the Mini-Dome had Bucs track and field coach Eli Sundquist jumping for joy.
Redshirt freshman Diego Lawrence competed unattached in the men’s long jump where his 24 feet, 53â„4 inches was the winning effort. In addition, the Bucs’ Jacob Short was third with a 24-1.
Also competing unattached in the men’s high jump, Marck Navratil re ached a winning height of 6-83â„4.
Capping off the jumps, Katerina Vodova, a freshman from the Czech Republic, finished second in the women’s long jump at 18-07. She took the lead on her final jump, only to be bested by Charleston Southern’s Sequoya Casey by three inches on the next jump.
“It was flat,” Vodova said. “Next time, I hope to do much better and hit the board. Next week, we compete in the penthatlon and I hope I do well.”
Vodova, fresh off winning Atlantic Sun Conference Athlete of the Week, was coming off a victory at the CNU Captains Invitational in Virginia. She was confused after not having the same energy on Saturday.
“I felt bad. I was tired,” she said. “I don’t know about having that sensation because I was motivated to beat everybody.”
Still, it was a great overall meet by the ETSU jumpers as Sundquist pointed out.
“We had a really good showing,” Sundquist said. “A lot of the jumpers who did well are multi-event athletes, so it was really good to see them do well.
“You see the guys who are redshirting, competing and doing well. It’s an exciting time for us. I can’t say enough about how well the jumpers did this weekend.”
The jumps, however, weren’t the only place where ETSU excelled.
Tim O’Dell posted a personal-best, 48.30-second run in the men’s 400 meters. However, it was just third-best in a race which featured Manteo Mitchell running 47.28, the ninth-fastest time in the world this year.
Still, the effort left the ETSU junior happy with his performance.
“It was a good run. The field was really fast,” O’Dell said. “Manteo ran the ninth-fastest time in the world so I figured if I stayed on his heels I would be fast.”
O’Dell said the ETSU coaches don’t put extra pressure on the athletes to perform at the Niswonger, but they all know the history of the meet and what it means to do well.
“They don’t try to emphasize it too much and stress us out, but we know what it means to them,” O’Dell said. “To finish in the top three, I feel proud.”
Hannah Bowers placed fourth in the women’s 400. The former Science Hill standout ran 58.79, with a strong kick at the end.
In the morning session, Melissa Peters finished third in the women’s 1-mile for the university/college division and Adam Chase finished fourth in the men’s portion of that event.
Sundquist was pleased with the Bucs’ overall showing.
“Our team performed very well this weekend,” Sundquist said. “This is definitely the best meet we’ve had all season for the men’s and women’s teams. We got them in the sprints, throws, jumps and distances. It’s good to see the total program come together at a home meet.”
Milligan College earned some high finishes as well.
Gillian Giffenplaced fourth in the women’s 5,000 meters with a time of 17:47.
The Lady Buffs’ distance medley relay team of MacKenzie Patten, Yolanda Migoyo, Christine McMahon and Giffen was seventh overall with a 12:43 in the race. It included a 5:12 by Giffen in the anchor leg.
“As a coach, it’s great to have an athlete you can trust to do the work every time you ask them,” Milligan head coach Chris Layne said. “You know she goes to the line and puts her heart in every single race. She’s tough as nails. She can just get to that point where other folks can’t go.”
Highlighted by Tanner Payne’s third-place in the weight throw, the Buffs had eight qualifiers for the upcoming NAIA naitonal meet.
“It was a great two days for us,” Layne said. “Tanner, like Gillian, is one of those special athletes. I counted this morning and we had five p.r’s in the 5,000. This is a young bunch who gives us a lot of optimism as we move forward.”
In the Knoxville Track Club high school portion of the event, three representatives of the local Slipstream Track Club finished among the top dozen in their events.
Hunter Boone won the boys’ triple jump with a 42-06.25 leap. Jessica Norris was second in the girls’ triple jump and 12th in the long jump. Hannah Rhodes added a seventh-place in the girls’ 3,000 meters.
Note: Sundquist, who served as meet director, squashed rumors that the retirement of longtime ETSU head coach Dave Walker would mean the end of the Niswonger Invitiational.
“We had over 60 teams here,” Sundquist said. “It’s still going strong and we plan on having it again next year. We’ve had some great competition, both collegiately and with the high school athletes, so we plan on doing it again.”