Two all-time top-10 marks fall in up-and-down performance at Vanderbilt Invitational

Impact freshman Chris Conrad nearly medaled in his 800-meter debut.
Sophomore high jumper Karissa Roman clears the bar during the indoor Missouri Invitational on Jan. 20, 2017. Maneater file photo

At a press conference last Wednesday leading into this weekend’s Vanderbilt Invitational, track and field head coach Brett Halter noted his team was still working its way back to full strength after a winter break in which different athletes experienced varying qualities of training away from campus.

The Tigers’ performances in Nashville on Friday and Saturday appeared to support Halter’s take, as some athletes rose to the challenge of Missouri’s largest meet so far, while others showed regression from past performances.

For all of Mizzou’s field athletes, the Vanderbilt Invitational was the first competitive action of the season other than the Holiday Opener.

On the opening day of competition, junior high jumper Landon Cuskelly finished ninth with a 2-meter jump, a 10th of a meter shy of his winning performance at the Missouri Holiday Opener in Columbia on Dec. 8. Junior thrower CeCe Johnson was another example of decline since December, with her weight throw performance dropping from 17.78 to 17.42 meters and a 15th-place finish. Redshirt junior Avery Carter, who won both the men’s shot put and weight throw at the Holiday Opener, saw a steep drop in the former and only a slight gain in the latter, leading to 13th- and 11th-place finishes, respectively.

Mizzou’s highlights on the opening day included junior high jumpers Valeria Kostiuk and Karissa Roman finishing second and third in the event, although Roman’s jump of 1.7 meters represented a drop from her December mark. Redshirt sophomore Patrick Kunza finished sixth in the men’s weight throw in his season debut, and redshirt senior Ellyn Atkinson came in eighth in the 5,000-meter run.

On Saturday, two redshirt seniors made their way into Missouri’s all-time top 10 in the 3,000-meter run. Megan Cunningham’s time of 9:19.07 was good for third place on the day and fifth in the Mizzou record book, and Marc Dubrick’s 8:12.30 placed him seventh in the men’s race and sixth in program history.

Two sprinters who were praised by Halter in his Wednesday presser starred over the weekend as well. Junior Maya Cody finished ninth in the 200-meter dash and 10th in the 60 meters, while freshman Chris Conrad made an immediate impact in his first career running of the 800 meters. He finished fourth with a time of 1:49.84, less than a second away from breaking into the program’s all-time top 10.

“[It was] exciting to see Chris run a personal best in his first collegiate effort at the distance; he will certainly get better from here,” Halter said in a press release following the meet.

However, the men’s 800 was also another area of offseason rust for Missouri, as redshirt senior Ben Goodman and senior Mark Sheridan each posted slower times than their 2016-17 bests.

On the women’s side, redshirt senior Valeska Halamicek, holder of the program’s 10th-best ever indoor time in the 800, ran more than four seconds slower than her high mark, finishing 17th. Redshirt senior Jerrad Mason, owner of the second fastest indoor 400-meter dash in program history, also fell short of his previous high, ending up in 13th.

In the Wednesday press conference, having anticipated this mix of performances after the offseason and winter break, Halter remained optimistic about getting his athletes into top shape as the climax of the indoor season approaches.

“I think we’ll be 100 percent as we roll into New York [next] weekend, and that will be a terrific measuring stick of where we’re going to be in mid-February for championship season,” he said.

The Tigers will compete in Manhattan in the Dr. Sander Invitational on Jan. 26-27.

Edited by Joe Noser |

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