Perry-Grimes’ gold the highlight of busy second day at OVC Outdoor Championships
Cape Girardeau, MO – Austin Peay State University (APSU) track and field athletes laid it out there during Friday’s second day of competition at the 2019 Ohio Valley Conference Track and Field Championships at Abe Stuber Track and Field Complex, leaving the Govs on solid footing heading into the final day.
Day Two featured another trip to the podium, multiple high-level qualification marks and the conclusion of the heptathlon, where a Governor held her own and then some.
Austin Peay Track and Field’s Maya Perry-Grimes gets gold in the long jump at OVC Outdoor Championships. (APSU Sports Information)
No outcome on Friday was more surprising than the long jump. It’s certainly not that Maya Perry-Grimes doesn’t have a bevy of talent; she was the 2017 OVC Indoor Freshman of the Year. But by the numbers, the Antioch, Tennessee native was not at the forefront of predicted winners in the long jump; the triple is her field specialty, and she entered the meet tied for eighth in the long. The optimistic hope was that she would bull her way into the top-five and pick up some crucial points.
Instead, she won the thing.
Four of her six attempts would’ve been a season-best, but her 6.01m mark is the one that helped capture the first individual gold medal of her Austin Peay career. She’s the first Gov to pass six meters since both Kaylnn Pitts and Chancis Jones did so at the 2017 OVC Outdoor Championships and the first Austin Peay champion in the event since Jones won the 2015 title.
“That gives us such a huge boost,” said head coach Doug Molnar. “We thought we’d pick up some points in that event but that was a very, very nice surprise.”
Senior Nia Gibbs-Francis was busy all day on Friday. She began the day by securing a point in the heptathlon with an eighth-place finish, accruing 4,177 points—she’s Austin Peay’s first points-earner in the heptathlon at the conference meet since Christiana Harris finished sixth in the 2017 Outdoor Championships.
While none of the final-day events could be considered her milieu, she acquitted herself nicely and ensured a point with fifth-place finishes in the long jump (5.24m, 626 points) and 800m run (2:26.97, 731 points).
The Fort Campbell High product then kicked off the field events in the high jump, securing an additional 1.5 points with a 1.64m leap and seventh-place tie; it’s the third straight year she’s finished in the money in the high jump.
The remainder of the day was devoted to track prelims, and in those Austin Peay State University is in a position to exceed expectations in Saturday’s finals.
It begins in the 400m dash. While both Sabrina Richman and Amelia Thiesing have been in and around the finals in the 400m during their careers, it would’ve been difficult to foresee Friday’s results in the preliminaries. Richman was a force; her 54.38 mark bested the rest of the field by more than a second, but Thiesing was her closest competition, qualifying second at 55.76.
If both find their way onto the podium on Saturday, it would be the first time of the top three outdoor 400m runners in the league hailed from Austin Peay since 2014 (Breigh Jones, Terri Morris).
For sophomore Lennex Walker, Saturday’s 100m hurdles final will be a personal affair. Last season, Walker could barely walk for this event—one of the favorites, a balky hamstring left unable to do more than limp to the line and get the Govs a point after qualifying for the event.
This season, she’s neck-and-neck with Eastern Illinois’ Pedra Hicks as one of the favorites, eight-hundredths of a second off Hicks’ pace at 13.92 during the prelims. Freshman Camaryn McClelland, who missed much of the spring with injury, will be in the mix in the finals as well after posting a seventh-place, 14.47 mark during qualifying.
A trio of Govs will take part in the 100m dash final. 2019 OVC Outdoor Freshman of the Year Kyra Wilder’s 12.01 mark led the Austin Peay contingent and was good for third overall during qualifying, three-hundredths of a second ahead of teammate Tymeitha Tolbert. Freshman Tiyanna Johnson also qualified fifth with a 12.06 mark; she and Wilder will be two of five freshmen in the event. All three Austin Peay qualifiers have gone below 12 seconds in their careers and could challenge for the podium on Saturday.
Saturday also promises to be a busy day for freshman Mikaela Smith. After using Thursday to secure qualification in the 400m hurdles, she came right back on Friday and made her mark with a personal-best 2:13.95 in the 800m run, qualifying seventh.
That means that her Saturday will start at 2:10pm in the 800m final, and she’ll need to have some juice left over with the 400m hurdle finals scheduled for a 2:30pm start.
“We handled business in the 400, and they helped set the tone on the track,” Molnar said. “Loved what we got from Camaryn in the hurdles considering she’d been out for most of a month. We picked up some qualifiers for tomorrow and put ourselves in really good position.”
The triple jump kicks things off Saturday at 11:00am. Track events are scheduled to begin at 12:30pm with the 4x100m relays.