The Maneater

Tigers grab five event wins to wrap up senior day at Tom Botts Invitational

High jumper Landon Cuskelly led the way for Missouri a day after Karissa Schweizer’s record-breaking run.

Courtesy of Mizzou Athletics Mizzou Athletics

Landon Cuskelly felt his body hit the mat and immediately sprung up in celebration. The high jump bar remained suspended 2.18 meters above the ground, and the Missouri junior had himself an event win and a new personal record on Saturday, the second day of competition at the Tom Botts Invitational in Columbia.

“It’s been a while since I jumped that high, so it felt really good,” Cuskelly said. “I was trying to control [my emotions] a little bit, but sometimes I can’t help it. When I hit the mat, I just get up and scream.”

Cuskelly is now tied for fifth on Missouri’s program all-time high jump leaderboard and is tied for seventh in the NCAA West region this season, putting him in a position to qualify for the West preliminary competition of the NCAA championships. The top 48 individuals in each event during the regular season qualify for the preliminary, which then sends its top 12 finishers to the national championships.

Cuskelly, a former junior college standout in the high jump at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas, struggled in the recent indoor season, his first since transferring to Missouri.

“I think my head was just out of it [in the indoor season], and we were constantly changing up my approach, so having a consistent approach gives me the confidence to jump higher bars,” he said.

Cuskelly joined several other Tigers with notable performances Saturday. Junior Karissa Roman won the women’s high jump with a 1.72-meter leap. Roman currently sits tied for 29th in the West region this season thanks to a 1.75-meter jump from earlier in the year.

Redshirt junior Gabi Jacobs won the women’s discus with a 58.11-meter throw, her best mark of the season and the eighth best in the West region. She believes her trajectory has her in a good position to break her program record of 58.23 meters, which qualified her for last year’s NCAA championships.

“I definitely do see myself breaking [my personal record],” she said. “[If I] just keep working hard in practice, I’m sure it will come naturally.”

Breezy conditions at Walton Stadium during the meet, part of a trend of bad weather that has hit Missouri this spring, made Jacobs’ throw even more impressive.

“Our spring hasn’t been as rough as [parts further north], but it’s been rough enough to challenge our technical people that rely on decent weather to hone their skill,” head coach Brett Halter said. “That’s really good to be able to know that in bad wind conditions ... she can throw that kind of distance.”

The wind may be to blame for the struggles of Missouri’s male discus throwers this weekend. Redshirt junior Will Fife, the team’s top performer in the event so far this season, entered with a season-high toss of 52.14 meters, less than a meter away from the 48th-place cutoff in the West region. But on Saturday, Fife only mustered 49.25 meters with his longest throw, finishing in fourth place.

The women’s 800-meter run featured eight Tigers, including redshirt senior Valeska Halamicek, who finished first in 2:10.14, less than a second from the west region cutoff. Halamicek was coming off a fast 700-meter run on Friday night, when she served as a pacer for the opening two laps of senior Karissa Schweizer’s school record run in the 1,500 meters.

Schweizer had initially been scheduled to run in the 800 as well but was scratched in order to recover ahead of next week’s Drake Relays, where she will run in the 5,000 meters.

In the men’s 800, freshman Chris Conrad finished first in 1:51.45, continuing what has been an impact debut year in collegiate competition. Conrad also won the 1,500 on Friday and nearly broke into the program’s all-time top 10 in the 800 during the indoor season.

Redshirt senior Jerrad Mason was edged out by 0.004 seconds by Drake University senior Hudson Priebe in the men’s 400-meter hurdles, finishing second in 51.917 seconds. The time, his season best, lifted him from 35th to 30th in the region.

With this being Missouri’s only home meet of the outdoor season, the Tigers held their senior day ceremony toward the end of the afternoon.

University of Northern Iowa freshman and 2016 paralympian Jessica Heims made perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the weekend by any competitor, breaking the U.S. paralympic record for the T/F44 class of the women’s discus. Heims’ throw of 31.65 meters placed her 14th in the meet but was the furthest ever for an American with her disability. The lower half of her right leg was amputated when she was less than a year old.

Mizzou will travel to Des Moines, Iowa, for the Drake Relays next week, its final tuneup before the SEC championships from May 11-13 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

“We have trophies up in our office that date back to the early 1900s from Drake, so there’s a lot of history there,” Halter said. “We want to go up and have fun, celebrate track and field. At the same time, we’re going to get some good work done.”

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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