Missouri claims three SEC championships, will send 13 athletes to track and field Regionals

Now an eight-time SEC Champion, Karissa Schweizer will be the lone Tiger to compete in multiple events at Regionals.
Photo by Jeff Curry Courtesy of Mizzou Athletics

Missouri captured three Southeastern Conference titles to complete its track and field regular season in Knoxville, Tennessee last weekend. Following Thursday’s announcement from the NCAA, the Tigers are set to send 13 athletes to the NCAA West Preliminary competition May 24-26.

The action in Knoxville began on May 11, when redshirt senior Megan Cunningham clinched her second SEC title of 2018 with a victory in the 10,000-meter race. Cunningham also won the 3,000-meter race at the indoor conference championships in February.

After suffering devastating injuries in a 2015 car crash with her parents, Cunningham has recovered significantly to become one of the best distance runners in the SEC.

"It was a new experience, a different event [than my first SEC championship],” Cunningham said in a press release. “I would say it was just exciting as the first time. I knew my parents were watching back home, so I was happy they were able to see it."

Elsewhere on Friday, redshirt senior Valeska Halamicek and freshman Chris Conrad qualified for the women’s and men’s 800-meter finals, respectively. Junior Becky Keating finished fourth in the women’s hammer throw and redshirt senior Jerrad Mason reached the final of the men’s 400-meter hurdles.

On the second day of competition, decorated senior Karissa Schweizer made her first appearance of the weekend, qualifying for the women’s 1,500-meter final alongside Halamicek. Senior Rauno Liitmae finished fifth in the decathlon, qualifying himself for June’s NCAA Championships in the process by posting one of the country’s 24 best marks in the event.

Other notable results included redshirt junior Gabi Jacobs’ seventh-place finish in the women’s shot put and redshirt junior Zach Cook and redshirt senior Marc Dubrick’s qualification for the men’s 1,500-meter finals.

Missouri’s final two event wins came Sunday, when Schweizer won the women’s 5,000 meters for her eighth overall SEC title and Jacobs won the women’s discus throw for the second straight year.

Schweizer also finished second in the 1,500 meters and expressed confidence with her ability to run two different races in a meet heading into the postseason.

“It was very difficult,” she said in a press release. “Just being able to double back really gives me a lot of confidence going into nationals and preparing to double there.”

Halamicek finished behind Schweizer in sixth in the 1,500. Building on their qualification efforts from Friday, Conrad finished fifth in the men’s 800 meters, Mason finished sixth in the 400-meter hurdles and Halamicek finished eighth in the 800 meters.

Junior high jumpers Valeria Kostiuk and Karissa Roman finished sixth and eighth respectively in their events.

In the overall team standings, the Tiger men finished 13th while the women finished 10th.

“[Team] points are extremely hard to come by at this meet, and we had a lot of athletes get on the board,” head coach Brett Halter said in a press release. “Obviously, Karissa [Schweizer], Gabi and Megan showed up in a big way becoming SEC champions.”

The May 17 NCAA announcement confirmed which Tigers would extend their seasons at the West Preliminary in Sacramento, California. The top 48 athletes from the regular season in each event in the NCAA’s West Region qualify for the meet, which sends its top 12 finishers in each event to the NCAA Championships.

On the men’s side, Conrad will compete in the 800 meters, Mason will run in the 400-meter hurdles, junior Landon Cuskelly will participate in the high jump, redshirt junior Will Fife will contest the shot put, redshirt junior Avery Carter and redshirt sophomore Patrick Kunza will compete in the hammer throw and Liitmae will enter the javelin throw.

Schweizer and Cunningham will each run in the 10,000 meters in Sacramento. Schweizer holds the NCAA’s fastest regular season time in the event. Schweizer will also enter the 5,000-meter run, while Cunningham elected to focus on the 10,000 despite also qualifying for the 5,000. Similarly, Schweizer will not compete in the 1,500 in order to focus on the two longer races.

Roman will represent the Tigers in the women’s high jump, Jacobs will compete in the shot put and discus throws and Keating will enter the hammer throw.

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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