The Northern Illinois track and field team scored 47 points, its highest-ever total in a Mid-American Conference Outdoor Championship meet, as it claimed eighth place on Saturday at the NIU Track & Field and Soccer Complex.
“I think all of the ladies gave everything that they had on the track,” said NIU head coach Connie Teaberry. “We wanted them to just continue to do what they have done all year and we ended up with some great performances. We have worked hard all season and here at the MAC Championships the ladies believed that they could move up (in the conference standings) and they actually did it.
The Huskie quartet of Chanel Kellyman, Roneisha Frye, Brittany Smith and Rasheta Butler claimed the title in the 4×100-meter relay with a school record-setting time of 45.64 seconds, which also broke the NIU Complex record.
NIU’s previous point-high at the MAC Outdoor Championships was 35.5 in 2006; the eighth-place finish was the best for the Huskies since 2005, when they also finished eighth. NIU’s only better performance in a MAC Outdoor Championships came in 1981 when the Huskies finished sixth.
“This does so much for our program; it proves that we are going in the right direction in competition against the other schools in the MAC. For our current student-athletes this is a great confidence builder. We have been telling them all year that they are good and they are capable of putting points on the board (in the conference meet) and they proved that today.
The Huskies started off the track events with a bang as Kellyman, Frye, Smith and Butler claimed the 4×100-meter relay. The foursome edged Eastern Michigan at the line with a time of 45.64 seconds, 11 one-hundredths of a second ahead of second-place Eastern Michigan (45.75). The crown was the first event victory for NIU at the MAC Outdoor Championships since Ashley Morrow won the shot put at the 2006 Championships and was also the first-ever win for NIU in the 4×100-meter relay.
“Chanel (Kellyman) did a great job of leading us off through the stagger, giving it off to Roneisha (Frye) and she kept that lead. Brittany Smith had an excellent curve and, and usual, Rasheta brought it home.
NIU continued its momentum on the track in the 100-meter hurdles as a pair of Huskies scored points for the team. Frye took second-place, scoring eight points for the team, with a time of 13.82 seconds, just five one-hundredths of a second behind first-place Layne Baggett of Miami. Megan Gregory also collected four points for the team with a fifth-place finish. Gregory crossed the line with a time of 14.06 seconds.
In the other hurdle event, the 400-meter hurdles, Jenelle McCalla earned a point for NIU with an eighth-place finish. Running in the second of two heats, McCalla posted a time of 1:03.66, taking eighth overall and fourth in an unusually fast second heat.
In addition to helping NIU score in the 4×100-meter relay, Butler scored in two individual events for the Huskies, taking second in the 200-meter dash and seventh in the 100-meter dash. In the 200 meters, Butler chased Western Michigan’s Iris Campbell down the stretch, nearly catching her at the line. Butler recorded a time of 23.75 seconds, just two-tenth behind Campbell (23.55).
Butler scored for the second time in the meet with a seventh-place finish in the 100-meter dash. Butler clocked in with a time of 11.79 seconds, just a tenth of a second out of fourth-place.
Rebecca Cronin added to the excellent day on the track for the Huskies with a fifth-place finish in the 800-meter run. Cronin held off Heather Conger of Bowling Green at the line to earn fifth with a time of 2:14.47.
The Huskies also posted a pair of scorers in the field events as Jenner Sio and Cora Caulfield each recorded fourth-place finishes.
Sio took five points for NIU with a fourth-place mark in the triple jump of 39-01.0 (11.91m). Sio claimed her best mark of the day on her first attempt of the finals, her fourth leap overall in the competition.
Caulfield also scored five points in the discus with a fourth-place throw measuring 166-01 (50.63m). She recorded her best mark of the day on her second of six throws.
In the overall team competition, Kent State took the women’s title with 117.5 points, one point ahead of Eastern Michigan. Akron won the men’s championship with 198.5 points.
“On behalf of the stuff and our student-athlete I want to thank the MAC for allowing us to host the conference championship. I also want to thank our administration, our support staff and all of the volunteers who helped make this meet a success from beginning to end.”
NIU will now await the conclusion of the other conference championship meets this weekend to determine NCAA Regional qualifiers. A total of 48 competitors in individual events and 24 teams in relays qualify for the NCAA Regionals. As a member of the West Region, NIU will send its athletes to the University of Oregon for the regional at legendary Hayward Field, May 26-28.