Redbirds Finish with 20 All-Valley Performers; Seven Champions
Mat Smoody
Mat Smoody

Feb. 26, 2012

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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - The Illinois State men's and women's track & field teams wrapped up the indoor season at the 2012 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships at the UNI-Dome Sunday afternoon. The Redbirds produced seven Valley champions and tabbed 20 All-Valley honors.

The women's team finished the team competition in third place with 124.83 points behind second-place finisher Wichita State (129.33) and Valley champion Missouri State (132). The men's team finished a disappointing sixth, scoring just 73 points.

Head track & field coach Elvis Forde was disappointed with today's results.

"It is hard to walk away from something that you believed could happen and it didn't," said Forde. "We thought our women's team had a good chance to win the championship and after today's finish, we are all a little disappointed with the results. Overall, we had a great indoor season and got to see some of our student-athletes perform at a high level in the championships this weekend, but the end result is not what we wanted."

The excitement today started in the women's shot put, which produced three national qualifiers, and among them, Brittany Smith. Smith finished with a mark of 56-03.75, the second-best of her career and second-best in the ISU record books. Throughout the MVC championships, Smith managed to qualify for the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships in both the weight throw and the shot put, while racking up two All-Valley certificates.

The mile run followed, with the lady Redbirds mustering up a first-, fourth- and fifth-place finish. Elise Sigg took the fifth position with a time of 5:00.66, while Kristen Zillmer finished fourth with a personal-best time of 4:58.48. Senior Aisha Praught continued to rack up the awards, running a tactical race to be crowned the MVC Champion in the mile in 4:48.69 fashion. Praught also added another All-Valley certificate to her collection.

About two hours later, the female distance crew bounced back to finish two, four and five in the 5,000-meter run. Again, it was Praught taking the second position with a time of 17:03.96, earning Valley honors. Sigg and Rachael Brewer crossed the line almost simultaneously, finishing with times of 17:14.35 and 17:14.37, respectively, for fourth and fifth. Sigg also earned the Elite 18 award for her performance in the classroom and at the championships. In all, the women's distance runners earned 67 points for the team, claiming eight All-Valley honors and two MVC Championships (mile and distance medley relay).

Sade Sealy won her third-straight title in the 400-meter dash, this time running a career-best and ISU record of 54.39. Shandel Ellis followed in the 200-meter dash, this one being decided by a photo finish, as the winners of both finals' heats ran the same exact time. As a result, Ellis ended up finishing second with a personal-best time of 24.53 for Valley honors. Rachelle Harbert followed with a fourth-place finish in the pole vault, shattering her school record and setting a new career-mark of 12-09.00.

On the men's side, Fabian Norgrove ran to a third-place finish in the 400-meter dash, producing a time of 49.01 and earning All-Valley honors. Mat Smoody claimed his second-straight MVC title in the 800-meter run, coming from behind on the final kick to finish with a time of 1:52.52. Christopher Hamilton claimed the third spot with a time of 1:53.56 in his first ever Valley championship competition. Both earned Valley honors.

The men's 4X400-meter relay followed with Coty Kramer, Norgrove, Hamilton and Smoody running in the most exciting race of the day. This race also came down to a photo finish, as Smoody was edged out for first by a forward lean of a Northern Iowa runner as they crossed the finish line. The team claimed second with a time of 3:16.33 and subsequently each earned All-Valley honors.

In the field, Curt Jensen was edged out for first place in the shot put by 1.25 inches, finishing with a mark of 59-01.50 for Valley honors.

Some of the Redbirds will go on to compete this upcoming weekend at the Last Chance Meet in hopes to qualify for the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships the following weekend, while the others will take a breather before gearing up for the outdoor season. As of now, Smith is the only Illinois State track & field student-athlete who has qualified for the national meet which is slated for March 9-10 in Boise, Idaho.

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