COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – After its best ever conference finish last year, the Belmont University men's track and field program is hoping to make history at this week's Ohio Valley Conference Outdoor Championships.
The OVC meet begins Thursday with the decathlon and heptathlon events on the track at Tennessee Tech's Tucker Stadium. It's there in Cookeville, Tenn., where the Bruins will reach for their first ever team conference title since joining the OVC in 2012.
Belmont took second in 2017 with 138 points, a distant silver to champion SE Missouri State's 182, but the Bruins had never finished higher than fifth before.
"We've come so far," said Belmont senior hurdler Caleb Corprew (Midwest City, Okla.) "The biggest thing is there's expectations on a personal level. Over time, with a group of older guys ahead of us to set that precedent, we got to where we go out there and compete and not care about who's in that jersey next to you."
This year's crew may be the deepest Belmont has ever had in men's track and field. The Bruins have 25 marks that ranked in the top eight in the OVC during the regular season. The top eight placers at this week's meet will score points toward the team total.
Corprew leads that group, having run the conference's best times in the 110- and 400-meter hurdles this season. He was also part of Belmont's school-record breaking 4x400-meter relay team that also owns the OVC's top time.
He's far from alone when it comes to high-seeded Bruins though. Juniors Corey Claiborne (Alpharetta, Ga.) and Nate Nammour (Tampa, Fla.) enter the conference meet with the second-best marks in the OVC in the shot put and 400 meters, respectively. Senior Christian Crenshaw (Memphis, Tenn.) holds the No. 3 time in the 400 hurdles. In fourth is sophomore Declan McManus (Worcestershire, England) in the 3,000 steeplechase, senior Matt Walker (Southlake, Texas) in the javelin, junior Kaden Eaton (Columbus, Ind.) in the 5,000 and freshman Bobby Willingham (Nashville, Tenn.) in the pole vault.
"That's the thing, it doesn't have to be an amazing day, just a good day," said Belmont Assistant Track Coach Joe Frye. "They just have to do what they've already done, which means we need to limit the amount of bad days."
"Going into a meet thinking everything is going to go perfectly, that's setting yourself up for psychological failure."
A few Bruins are also hoping their marks will be good enough for their track seasons to continue beyond the end of the OVC Outdoor Championships, which run through Saturday. The region's top 48 times or distances in each event from across the entire year qualify for the NCAA East Preliminary held later this month at Tampa, Fla.
McManus, Corprew and Claiborne are all already in that category, though they could certainly improve their standing with big performances at conference. A handful of other Belmont athletes remain right on the cusp.
OVC OUTDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS INFORMATION
BELMONT MEN RANKED IN OVC TOP 12
9. Nate Nammour, jr. — 21.93
12. Ryan Teague, so. — 22.02
2. Nate Nammour, jr. — 47.57 (85th in NCAA East)
4. Caleb Corprew, sr. — 48.66
6. Ryan Teague, so. — 49.11
12. Christian Gonzales, so. — 1:55.59
8. Anthony Didion, sr. — 3:52.02
10. Matt Edwards, sr. — 3:54.05
4. Kaden Eaton, sr. — 14:29.32
9. Matt Edwards, sr. — 14:37.08
1. Caleb Corprew, sr. — 14.40 (87th in NCAA East)
6. Alex Miller, so. — 15.10
8. Drake Mitchell, so. — 15.40
1. Caleb Corprew, sr. — 51.90 (25th in NCAA East)
3. Christian Crenshaw, sr. — 52.70 (55th in NCAA East)
5. Alex Miller, so. — 54.41
9. Khristian Vickers, fr. — 57.70
4. Declan McManus, jr. — 8:57.62 (22nd in NCAA East)
7. Matthew Blivin, sr. — 9:52.24
7. Drake Mitchell, so. — 1.90m
4. Bobby Willingham, fr. — 4.01m
5. Ryan Lipe, jr. — 3.71m
7. Drake Mitchell, so. — 3.26m
2. Corey Claiborne, jr. — 17.42m (41st in NCAA East)
6. Cal Widener, fr. —15.86m
9. Stephen Gibson, jr. — 15.20m
5. Corey Claiborne, jr. — 47.98m
6. Stephen Gibson, jr. — 47.73m
12. Cal Widener, fr. — 44.35m
7. Stephen Gibson, jr. — 54.47m
9. Corey Claiborne, jr. — 51.46m
12. Ryan Sheldon, fr. — 44.36m
4. Matt Walker, sr. — 52.47m