By Bailey VenJohn
Tradition is huge at SC. Events such as the Mound building ceremony at the beginning of the year have a strong presence in history. Hundreds come back for Homecoming. The SC Relays is another one of those events.
“It’s historic. Schools have been coming here for years. We have had Olympians compete here. Some of the best NAIA teams regularly. It’s a mainstay on the schedule” said Jim Helmer, track head coach.
This will be the 52nd year for this event.
Helmer has been a part of this gathering for years. He participated in the meet for four years as a SC track athlete and this is his 35th year coaching in it.
“The meet has changed a lot,” Helmer said. “It used to be a cinder track, and they had a high school division for the meet. Some years they would do bigger high schools one day and smaller another. The college meet has always been on the last Saturday of April.”
When women’s track came into play the high school division got to be too much. In 1986 they dropped the high school division and built an all-weather track.
Typically there are about 15 to 20 teams in attendance.
Between 60 and 70 coaches from schools in the Kansas and Oklahoma area receive invitations.
“We really don’t have selective invites. We just open it up to junior colleges, other NAIA schools, and some NCAA division II schools” said Mike Kirkland, head women’s track coach.
Kirkland has been a coach for 31 years. He graduated from Southwestern where he was a track athlete in 1982.
Scott Nuss, sports information director, is in his first year in this position. This will be his first go round at the relays.
“This is one of our big events. It gets a little more attention than the invitational. It is also deeper in to the season and overall it just gets a little more TLC” said Nuss.
Helmer is the meet coordinator. Dave Denly, athletic director, makes sure everything goes well and that Helmer has access to set the meet up correctly.
Helmer said he enjoys being a part of the excitement, and watching everything operate smoothly. “It’s always special to get to compete at home.”
T.J. Harris, assistant track coach, is in charge of lining up workers to help run the meet. His goal is to have about 30 workers to have it run smoothly.
“At the conclusion of the meet a male and female are awarded the Monypeny MVP award” said Kirkland. Together, Helmer and Kirkland pick athletes that have an outstanding meet or performance.
The field events kick off at 11:30 a.m. April 27. Running events will start at 2 p.m.
Bailey VenJohn is a freshman majoring in communication. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.