Panther men win second conference title, women finish 3rd

Several of the UNI women finished in all-conference positions at the 2021 Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Track and Field Championship meet.

DAVID WARRINGTON

From Friday, Feb. 26 through Sunday, Feb. 28, the UNI-Dome was host to the 2021 Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Track and Field Championship meet. The Panthers managed to find a lot of success throughout the weekend. In the team standings, the men came out on top, scoring 167.5 points to win their second consecutive and 14th overall conference championship, while the women finished with 107 points, which was enough to secure third place. Individually, a total of 21 Panthers received all-conference recognition for finishing within the top three in their respective events, and four Panthers received specialty awards.

Senior Tayshaun Cooper was awarded the Most Valuable Athlete award for scoring the most points. Cooper finished second in the 60-meter dash, while winning the 200-meter dash as well as anchoring the championship 4×400 relay team. The other members of this team were Connor Blough, Sven Van Den Bergh, and Seb Gearhart. Graduate student Darius King also received a specialty award, receiving the Most Valuable Field Athlete award for having the highest NCAA ranking in a field event. King was the champion in the shot put, throwing 64 feet, 10.5 inches, good for ninth in the NCAA. King also finished third in the weight throw, an event that was won by UNI’s Kyler Yodts.

Parker Kiewiet received the Freshman of the Year award for most points scored by a freshman. Kiewiet finished second in the long jump, jumping 24 feet, 0.25 inches, and also finished fourth in the heptathlon. Also in the heptathlon, UNI sophomore Thai Thompson finished in second place. UNI head coach Dave Paulsen was also recognized, receiving the Coach of the Year award.

In other all-conference finishes for the men, freshman Brendan Safley took home first place in the pole vault, vaulting 15 feet, 9.25 inches. Senior Eli Hicks finished third in the 200-meter dash, running a time of 21.89 seconds. Sophomore Jack Sumners was third in the 60-meter hurdles, finishing in 8.00 seconds, Van Den Bergh, who also ran on the victorious 4×400 relay, took third in the 400-meter dash in 49.08 seconds, and Yodts, who was victorious in the weight throw, also took third in the shot put at 57 feet, 0.75 inches.

The UNI women also had several athletes finish in all-conference positions. The 4×400 relay of Jill Bennett, Emily Vos, Sophia Jungling and Allison Hilleman finished second in 3:52.69. The distance medley relay of Jungling, Hilleman, Sydney Schaffer, and Paige Holub also finished second with a time of 12:05.40. On top of their relay success, Jungling finished third in the 800-meter run in 2:10.49, and Holub finished third in the mile run at 4:58.52. Senior McKayla Cole also came in third in the 5000-meter run at 17:34.95, senior Aleenah Marcucci came in second in both the long jump as well as the 60-meter hurdles, and junior Cierra Laux finished second in the pole vault with a vault of 12 feet, 8 inches.

Looking ahead, Darius King, who is ranked ninth in the NCAA in the shot put, will compete at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships on Thursday, March 11 through Saturday, March 13, at the Randal Tyson Center in Fayetteville, Ark. The rest of the athletes will look ahead to the outdoor season, which is set to begin on Friday, March 26 at the Blue Oval Invitational in Des Moines, Iowa.