Three Cougars bring home gold from OVC Indoor Track and Field Championships

Nichyria Byrd (left, middle) and John Barnes (right) took first place in the women's long jump and men's weight throw, respectively, at the Ohio Valley Conference Indoor Championships. 

The Cougars returned home from the Ohio Valley Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships with three gold medals along with multiple other high marks.

OVC Freshman of the Year Ethan Poston’s high jump of 6 feet, 11 inches secured him first place. This is third all-time for SIUE in the men’s high jump. Poston said recent news of him being named Freshman of the Year boosted his confidence.

“While we were traveling my coach told me that I got Freshman of the Year,” Poston said. “So coming into the meet I was already happy and excited to perform and so then going into the high jump competition, I wasn’t super nervous because I already had Freshman of the Year under my belt.”

Once again, senior Nichyria Byrd returned to Edwardsville with an OVC long jump championship win. Her jump of 5.92 meters was not only a personal record, but also second-best all-time for the Cougars. This season, the jumpers underwent a coaching change, which Byrd said made the feat even more special.

“I’ve been struggling because we had a coaching change and so for me to PR at the conference, basically the peak of where I needed to PR, it was overwhelming and I was really excited,” Byrd said.

Sophomore DeVonte Tincher jumped 6.85 meters, placing second in the men’s long jump. On Thursday, senior Brittney Gibbs placed second in the women’s triple jump with a distance of 12.25 meters and junior Logan Webb’s 13.59-meter jump took fifth for the men.

Among the throwers, redshirt sophomore John Barnes threw 19.67 meters, taking home his second OVC men’s weight throw title. Junior Austin Lynch took fifth in the event with his 18.29-meter throw.

Barnes secured his Wednesday win with his sixth and final throw. While he said he knew he could take home the gold, he focused on his teammates’ feedback of stepping forward instead of backward to achieve the win.

“I knew I had it in me to beat [the competition], it was just a matter of if I would or not,” Barnes said. “I tried to focus on what my teammates were telling me that I needed to fix, so I did that enough to where I could secure the win and reach my potential.”

The Cougars also boasted high performances in distance events. On Wednesday, senior Matt O’Connor qualified for the 800-meter final with a time of 1:54.62. O’Connor’s time of 1:54.18 placed him second in the final on Thursday.

O’Connor said a slight moment of hesitation cost him the win and he learned from it.

“I would say that the lesson would be not to hesitate at all and to just be completely in the moment,” O’Connor said. “You have to have complete confidence in your ability and know that you can do it.”

Barnes said he thinks the high performances of this year’s OVC indoor championships will create more confidence for the team going into the next indoor season.

“I think it gives people more confidence, [it shows] that we are competitive in our events, that we can compete and succeed,” Barnes said. “It’s just a good confidence boost all-around to see your teammates do well. It pushes you to do better and lifts morale.”

Sophomore Joseph Stone ran a time of 1:57.40 in the 800-meter final, placing seventh. Junior Aly Goff’s time of 5:05.0 took seventh in the women’s mile and sophomore Kassidy Dexheimer finished the mile with a PR of 5:11.57, running the eighth-best time in Cougar history. On the men’s side, junior Landon Skelly placed eighth with his 4:17.63 time. This is the eighth-best time in Cougar history. With a time of 7.16, Tincher placed seventh in the 60-meter.

The Cougars kick off their outdoor season Friday and Saturday, Mar. 22 and 23 at the Bill Cornell Classic in Carbondale, Illinois.

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