BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Behind a pair of silver finishes, the Belmont men's track and field team leaped out to third place on the first day of the Ohio Valley Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships on Wednesday.
The Bruins picked up 29 team points through Day 1 of competition and are sure to add to that total when the conference meet concludes Thursday at the Birmingham CrossPlex. Along with first-day medalists Braden Carei (pole vault) and Jacob McLeod (5,000 meters), the Bruins advanced five other racers on to the Day 2 finals.
"The guys were lighting it up today," said Belmont Assistant Track Coach Joe Frye. "Although it's only the semifinals, taking guys to the finals in great position in every race is a huge deal and really speaks to our depth as a team."
In event championships decided Wednesday, Carei (Uniontown, Pa.) came oh so close to earning his second career OVC title in the pole vault. He cleared 4.60 meters (15 feet, 1 inch) on his second attempt but fell short of what would have been a season best mark at 4.70 to settle for second.
Later in the day, the McLeod brothers (Soperton, Ga.) both scored by placing in the top eight in the 5,000 meters with freshman Jacob running a 14:36.50 to take second. Junior Kaleb wasn't far behind at 15:00.42 to place eighth.
The Bruins had three point scorers in the weight throw event alone, led by senior Stephen Gibson's (Tuscola, Ill.) throw of 17.63 meters (57-10.25) that took sixth. Freshman Reece Davidson (Arvada, Colo.) threw 16.13 (51-11) and sophomore Ryan Sheldon (Anchorage, Alaska) marked at 15.45 (50-8.25) to follow suit in seventh and eighth place, respectively.
Belmont can expect more team points coming from several athletes on the track Thursday.
The heptathlon wraps up on the meet's second day and junior Drake Mitchell (Nashville, Tenn.) is holding strong in second place so far. He was top three in all four events contested on Day 1, including a personal-best 1.97-meter jump for second in the high jump. Mitchell also placed eighth in the individual pole vault.
In the sprints, sophomore Hayden Stover (Brentwood, Tenn.) was third in the 60-meter preliminaries after winning his heat in a personal-best 6.98 seconds. Freshman Brendan Elrod (Crossville, Tenn.) set a PR in both the 200 (22.28) and 400 (49.03) to advance to Thursday's finals in each event, and senior Nate Nammour (Tampa, Fla.) will join him in the 400 after running a 48.91. Junior Christian Gonzales (Orindo, Calif.) will also race for a medal in the 800 after surviving prelims.
"We're seeing a lot of personal bests and hopefully that translates into some big points for us tomorrow," Frye added.
Action resumes Thursday at 9 a.m. with the heptathletes with rest of the competition getting under way at noon.
OVC Indoor Championships
Day 1 Belmont Results
1. SE Missouri, 42
2. Eastern Kentucky, 36
3. Belmont, 29
4. SIU Edwardsville, 28
5. Eastern Illinois, 22
6. Tennessee State, 20
7. UT Martin, 15
2nd. Drake Mitchell, jr. – 2,778 points
(60m: 7.40, 3rd; LJ: 6.49m, 2nd; SP: 11.27m, 2nd; HJ: 1.97m*, 2nd)
4. Christian Gonzales, jr., 1:55. 05