The SIUE track and field teams finished up their indoor seasons this weekend at the two-day Ohio Valley Conference championship at Eastern Illinois University with some successful performances.

Senior distance runner Matt O’Connor in the 800m, sophomore thrower John Barnes in the weight throw and junior jumper Nichyria Byrd in the long jump all took first place in their events, and multiple other Cougars reached the top-3 podium, as well.

“The kids showed up and competed their hearts out, and everyone, by and large, either met or exceeded expectations,” Assistant Coach Joey Pacione said.

Along with their first place finishes, O’Connor also competed in the 4x400, which placed third, and Byrd took third in the triple jump.

In the weight throw event, Barnes placed first with a personal record of 61 feet 8.75 inches and was followed up by junior thrower Nick Matthews, who took second. Sophomore thrower Austin Lynch took fifth in the event.

Senior thrower Lizzie Virgl also had a solid performance, representing the Cougars’ throwers with a second place finish and a school record of 58 feet 5.5 inches in the weight throw.

O’Connor said he was impressed by his teammates, and he was happy to end his indoor career on a high note.

“It definitely felt good to come in as the favorite, and following it up and winning was really satisfying,” O’Connor said.

Some of the Cougars’ newer athletes, like freshman jumper DeVonte Tincher, came to the meet with exceptional results as well. Tincher placed in the top five in all four of his events — long jump, triple jump, 60 and 200.

“It felt amazing. It was definitely an eye-opening experience of how much talent there truly is in the OVC,” Tincher said.

With the upcoming outdoor season and three more years of his college career remaining, he said he has high hopes for his future.

“Hopefully, I can set myself up to be an OVC champion in the future,” Tincher said.

Freshman sprinter Collin Brown also helped his team to the podium in the 4x400, running the relay with O’Connor, senior hurdler Dalton Oakes and sophomore distance runner Kevin Campbell. Oakes stepped up to take part in the relay after freshman sprinter Nylo Clarke went down with an injury in an earlier event.

According to O’Connor, the team had not had a consistent 4x400 relay until Brown and Clarke stepped in this year, so he was satisfied by the third place finish.

“We’ve come a long way from barely even having a team to medaling in indoor,” O’Connor said.

Despite some first place finishes, none of the Cougars will move on to the national meet, but they will begin to prepare for the Coastal Carolina Invitational on Friday, March 9 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The meet will mark the beginning of the outdoor season, which is coming much earlier than usual, according to Pacione.

“Normally, we open the outdoor season at the end of March instead of at the beginning of March, and I think [the Coastal Carolina Invitational] will be a good opportunity for people to knock the rust out of their outdoor events,” Pacione said.

Pacione and Tincher both mentioned the level of competition that will be at this meet, which will hopefully help them gain confidence heading into the outdoor season.

“It’ll be good to jump against a lot of good jumpers, especially this early in the season. So, hopefully, we can put on a show for everyone that shows up for that meet,” Tincher said.

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