Three SIU track and field start test mettle at championships
A trio of Southern Illinois University athletes had a triumphant trip to the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships recently, capping the outdoor season against the best of top competition in the nation.
The championships were held June 7-10 in Eugene, Oregon.
Senior thrower Freya Block kept up a fine tradition of SIU hurlers, taking home seventh place in the hammer throw and ending her Saluki career as an All-American.
Block started off lagging a bit behind the field, standing in 10th and 14th place, respectively, after her first two throws, but a third toss of 211'-10" pushed her into the finals and garnered her the All-American nod in her first trip to the NCAA Championships.
Block's big day made SIU one of the most successful programs off all time in the hammer throw. The Salukis are now tied with USC for the most All-American throwers, with 13. SIU also has the all-time points lead in the event, with its 74 total points topping USC by 5.
Block won her first title at the indoor Saluki Fast Start to begin the season and followed that with a win in the weight throw; she later became the fourth competitor from SIU to win the conference in the hammer and weight throws in the same season.
Fellow senior Kyle Landon finished 15th in the high jump at the games, clearing 6'-9.25" before missing on the following bar, keeping him out of the finals. It was a disappointment for Landon, whom many had seen as a favorite.
But Landon leaves SIU with a plethora of accolades, including nine Missouri Valley Conference championships -- the most in MVC history -- to go along with four Outstanding Male Field Athlete awards, the Most Valuable Athlete award at both the the indoor and the outdoor championships in the same season, and a second place in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.
He also performed well at the NCAA West preliminaries in May, where he cleared 7'-1.75" -- one of just five jumpers to do so. He cleared it without a miss, making him one of the favorites heading into the weekend's competition.
Sophomore runner Warren Hazel had hoped to build off of a stellar early career that's already seen him win two MVC championships in the 400 meters. Despite finishing 14th overall with a time of 45.83 and missing out on his goal of bettering his lifetime-best 45.70 at last month's prelims, he still had an impressive performance.
Hazel was the top-finishing runner in a non-power five conference in an event that was dominated by the big schools, especially the SEC, which put five runners into the eight-man finals.
Hazel also missed out on his goal of qualifying for the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London -- he needed a 45.50 to make it -- but with two more years of eligibility and plenty of success, his is a runner to watch.
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