By Clinton Dick
Staff reporter 

Kevin Rodgers, physical performance senior, lands in the men's long jump. Rodgers finished eight place out of 31 athletes jumping 6.99 meters. (Kerisha Broadus/ Special to the Collegian.)

Three meets are remaining until the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The championship takes place May 3 and 4. Two of those meets happen this week into the upcoming weekend. The teams will split this week, with some going to the Dean Pryor Invitational Wednesday hosted by Coffeyville Community College and the others to the Kansas University Relays in Lawrence Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Only those who meet time or distance qualifications can perform at the KU Relays.

Mike Kirkland, head women’s track coach, said that there is no room for missed chances this far into the season. “The season is quickly winding down,” said Kirkland. “We are not going to waste any opportunities.”

The original scheduled meet for Wednesday was the Tabor Invitational, but Jim Helmer, head men’s track coach, said that the travel schedule will work much better for the Coffeyville meet.

“Part of the reason we are going to Coffeyville is that it is a smaller meet,” said Helmer. “In the past with the Tabor meet we have gotten back after 11 at night.”

It was late Saturday when the team arrived back at campus from the Gorilla Classic hosted by Pittsburg State University. There were no new qualifiers for nationals, but several athletes performed at a high level despite a humid, windy day.

Chris Copeland, psychology senior, was not far off from the provisional qualifying mark in the men’s 400 meter dash with a time of 48.90 seconds. He placed fifth out of 41 competitors in the event. Copeland also anchored the 4×400 meter relay team, which won the race out of 16 teams. The team marked a time of 3:19.01 minutes, 30 tenths of a second ahead of the University of Central Missouri.

“It was a tight and exciting race,” said Helmer.

Brandyn Willard, physical education sophomore, ran the fastest split for the men’s 4×400 meter relay team, adding to an already impressive day.

“He put us in a good position to win that race,” said Helmer. “He is really stepping it up now.”

Willard’s 400 split was his personal best. He was close to another in the 400 meter hurdles, where he ran a 57.44 second time and placed seventh out of 21 competitors.

Christine Sheppard, chemistry sophomore, placed fourth out of 19 in the women’s 200 meter dash with a time of 25.96 seconds, which was close to a career best time. She also ran the 400 meter dash for the first time this year and placed eighth out of 18 with a time of 1:01.13 minutes.

In the men’s long jump event, Kevin Rodgers, physical performance senior, continued his successful season with an eighth place finish out of 31 competitors. He finished with a distance of 6.99 meters.

“Kevin once again had a good day with the long jump,” said Helmer. “He is just flirting with a big jump.”

Rodgers has already hit a provisional qualifying mark for nationals.

Helmer said that the meet looked very much like a mid-season meet normally does and that the Gorilla Classic wasn’t the best meet that the team has had all season.

“I wasn’t disappointed, but I thought we were ready to do better things than we did,” said Helmer. “The newness and excitement has gone away and the energy level isn’t where it needs to be.”

Still, there were some good signs from the Saturday performances, according to Helmer.

“One of the neat things about track and field is that it doesn’t all hinge on points and who on or who lost,” said Helmer. “You can always find positives.”

Clinton Dick is a junior majoring in convergent journalism. You may e-mail him at clinton.dick@sckans.edu.