Ja’Mari Ward breaks school long jump record at Missouri Collegiate Challenge

The Tigers now have three athletes in NCAA qualifying positions ahead of next week’s SEC championships.

With one week remaining until the Southeastern Conference championships, Missouri returned home to Hearnes Center for the first time since December and won 11 events against several Midwestern lower division schools on Friday in the Missouri Collegiate Challenge.

The Tigers’ headline achievement came in the long jump, where sophomore Ja’Mari Ward broke the school record and finished first with a 7.97-meter leap. Ward bested the previous record, which was set in 1984 by three-time Nigerian Olympian Yusuf Alli, by 0.6 meters.

Ward has quickly established himself as one the top jumpers in Mizzou history by claiming program top-10 marks in both the indoor and outdoor long and triple jumps since his arrival.

Junior Valeria Kostiuk tied the Tigers’ record in the high jump, winning the event with a 1.83-meter jump. After hovering just below the program top-10 mark of 1.75 meters for most of the season, Kostiuk succeeded from both 1.80 and 1.83 meters on Friday before failing on three attempts to break the school record of 1.84 meters.

Junior Karissa Roman was Kostiuk’s runner-up in the event, finishing with a 1.75-meter mark.

Junior Maya Cody entered the day in second place on the school’s all-time list in the 60-meter dash, and she improved her mark to within 0.05 seconds of the record by winning the event with a 7.36-second run in the finals.

After suffering a hamstring strain during a 200-meter race at a meet in New York City on Jan. 27, Cody used the team’s scheduled bye week to recover and now has her sights set on breaking the school record.

“I most definitely think I can beat [the school record],” she said. “There’s still some minor things I need to work on in my race, so if I can run a 7.36 with still some things I need to work on, then I know for sure that I can get the school record once everything comes together.”

As is common with home meets, several Missouri athletes who are not officially competing due to redshirting or transfer rules competed as unattached athletes on Friday.

Redshirt freshman Jayson Ashford won the men’s 60- and 200-meter dashes with 6.83- and 21.58-second runs, respectively. Both times would have tied him for eighth on the Tigers’ all-time chart in the two events.

Junior Jordan McClendon, who is ineligible to represent Missouri this season in the wake of a transfer from LSU, won the women’s weight throw with a 19.55-meter toss, which would have been fourth-best in Missouri history.

The school record book would be updated again in the final event of the day: the women’s shot put. Redshirt junior Gabi Jacobs, who entered the Missouri top 10 last week at the Tyson Invitational, rose from ninth to seventh on the list with a 15.54-meter throw to win the event.

Sophomore Emily Stauffer followed close behind with a 15.53-meter throw, putting her into the eighth position in the Tiger record book.

Missouri’s other field event wins included redshirt junior Avery Carter in the men’s weight throw (18.55 meters), freshman Arielle Mack in the women’s long jump (5.77 meters) and redshirt junior Will Fife in the men’s shot put (17.62 meters).

Carter finished second in the shot put with 17.34 meters, his best mark since last year’s SEC championships. This season, he had declined multiple times and even hit his career low in the event but appears to be back on track going into the postseason.

“Everyone goes through their peaks and troughs, so I’m kind of in the trough phase, trying to figure out my technique and how to peak in time for SECs next week,” Carter said.

On the track, freshman Shannon Browning won the women’s mile run (5:12.39), and the Tigers won the men’s and women’s 4x400-meter relays with times of 3:24.08 and 4:08.14, respectively.

"I thought it was a good day, and I think we are right where we want to be heading into championship season next weekend,” head coach Brett Halter said in a press release. “We are all looking forward to getting into some really fun competition over the next couple weeks."

Next week’s SEC championships in College Station, Texas, will serve as a last chance for athletes hoping to qualify for the national indoor championships in March. The top 16 athletes nationally in each event are given national championship berths. Currently, senior distance runner Karissa Schweizer, Kostiuk and Ward are the only Tigers in qualifying positions.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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