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Sprinters lead Eagle track at two-day Bellarmine meet

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At the conclusion of Friday and Saturday's Jim Vargo Invitational at Bellarmine's Owsley B. Frazier Stadium, Morehead State track and field coach Clay Dixon quoted the first part of a famous motto to describe the variety of environments in which his team has to compete during the first few meets of the outdoor campaign.

"The (U.S.) Postal Service's creed, 'Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night' … kinda sums up our season so far," he said.

In its three competitions so far, the Eagles have seen a variety of weather more akin to what might take place in the indoor season, but Morehead State's meet have all taken place outdoors.

Runners tend to like cold weather, but not this cold or this wet or this windy or this … snowy! The Eagles have seen all of those variations just since mid-March. They even two new ones on Friday night.

"We had an hour weather delay (for lightning), so all the 800s had to do a second warmup," Dixon said. "Hailing, rain, not terrible wind, but still cold."

In fact, there were three lightning delays on Friday night. And there was even hail.

Still, the one group most likely negatively impacted by cold, wet weather was the one which stood out.

"The sprints did really well. They were competitive, which is pretty good especially considering it was 30 degrees," Dixon said. "The times aren't there because of the cold and the wind, but they're progressing. So, I told them not to worry, they just need a good weather day and they'll be fine. We had (numerous) season bests or right at them in the sprints and it's good to know that we can do that when it's 30 degrees. We get good weather and we'll get some really big 'pr's."

Friday night's races featured invitational events in the distance races. The Eagles had 10 entries and notched four personal records.

In the 800-meter run, freshman Lucy Singleton claimed the day's top finish by placing fourth in a personal best 2:17.01. In the first race, sophomores Michael Dunagan took fourth in 1:57.20 and Toby Cook was 13th in 1:59.17.

The 5,000-meter run saw the team collect three more 'pr's. Sophomores Jarrett Forrest, Kyle Embry and Jacob Vogelpohl finished back-to-back-to-back in seventh, eighth and ninth. Forrest (15:25.72) and Vogelpohl (15:34.19) notched personal bests, while Embry clocked a respectable 15:27.60. Sophomore Peyton Fairchild also ran and placed 15th in 15:59.03.

"Jarrett, Jacob and Kyle ran real well," said Dixon.

In the women's race, sophomore Laikin Tarlton captured eighth in 18:44.10. Freshman Megan Bush notched a 'pr' with an 18:55.34 and placed 11th. Sophomore Isabella Copher rounded out the Eagle ladies taking 13th in 19:01.53.

The weather remained the story on Saturday as did MSU's impressive performances and its multiple 'pr's.

But the real standouts came in the sprints, and they did so despite it starting to snow just before the race.

Junior Sierra Kelley was third in the 400-meter dash in 1:02.54 with freshman Keana Meriwether winning her heat and claiming fifth in 1:03.32. Freshman Grace Lopez was ninth in the 100-meter dash in 13.14, three-hundredth of a second out of seventh.

All three performances caught Dixon's attention.

"Grace ran a personal best by a quarter of a second in the 100," he said. "A big positive was Sierra placing third and Keana fifth in the 400. That was one of the more impressive things in the entire meet. The 400 was not split between invitational and open (sections), that (pair of finishes) was running against everybody."

Indianapolis' Mary Watts won the 400m in 1:00.29.

Junior Dallas Jones placed 12th in the 200-meter dash in 28.30 with sophomore Tayla Lee in 19th in 29:41. Sophomore JD Camacho also ran the 400m, but did not finish the race.

Jones also ran a leg of the 4x400-meter relay that finished fifth in 4:21.15. Kelley, Camacho and freshman Cloe Copas joined her.

"An hour before the race, Dallas came up to me and said, 'Clay, I can't run the relay,'" Dixon said. "And then she goes out there and surprised herself by how well she ran. It is good to see that they're doing better than what they expect they can do."

In the team's first event of the day, four Eagles clocked a personal best in the men's open 1,500-meter run. As has been the case for much of the year, it was sophomore Michael Dunagan, who led the charge. He was 29-hundredths of a second behind the winner Clayton Jones of Aquinas (Mich.) College, who covered the course in 4:01.81.

"Mike was second in the open division. The invitational race was yesterday, so his race was not as competitive, but it still was a personal best (4:02.10)," Dixon said.

Sophomore Wes Grogan was not far behind in eighth with a time of 4:05.88. Sophomore Liam Dale claimed 14th in 4:09.62, with sophomore Kyler Stewart 20th in 4:11.80, sophomore Justin Bland 24th in 4:14.93, sophomore Justin Chavez 35th in 4:18.42, sophomore Toby Cook 49th in 4:24.27 and freshman Alex Murray 54th in 4:27.63.

Grogan, Dale and Murray's times were all 'pr's.

"Wes had a breakout race and he finally showed what he is capable of," Dixon said.

In the women's open race, sophomore Hannah Hostetler placed 18th in 5:!6.21, with sophomore Riliegh Owens just over two seconds back in 19th (5:18.29).

Copas finished ninth in the open 800m in 2:30.56, with sophomore Hannah Hostetler in 12th in 2:34.38 and freshman Christiana Lytle in 18th a personal best time of 2:40.19.

In the men's competition, junior Cruz Ortiz-Ramirez was 16th in 2:02.75, freshman Austin Montgomery was 20th in 2:03.84 and freshman Sam Lucas in 31st in 2:09.45.

In the final men's individual event of the meet, freshman Ethan Vance clocked a personal best of 16:32.07 to place 16th in the 5,000m.

Like the women's 4x400m relay, the Eagle men took fifth. The foursome of Dunagan, Cook, Forrest and Grogan covered the course in 3:40.04.

For Dixon, the relays were just trials to see which combination of runners might make up the quartet that toe the line at the conference championship.

"We got a few relay splits. It's not our 'A' squad, but our 'A and a half' squad," he said. "It's our first attempt at it and we're going to modify it over the next few meets. Austin had a good leg."

The non-scored meet included 26 teams. Dixon compared it to the team's performance at the Blizzard Buster three weeks ago.

"It was a good meet. It was like what we did at Miami. We had 11 or 12 personal bests out of 33 people competing, which is 33 percent," he said. "It shows that we're making progress. You can't have everyone 'pr' in every meet, so having one-third do that shows that we're making strides in the right direction."

The Eagles will take two weeks off from competition before returning for the Kentucky Invitational on April 22-23.

By Brad Laux, MSU Athletic Media Relations