By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – Battling a cold rain that hung around for most of the day, the shorthanded Tennessee Tech track and field team received runner-up results from Raven Smith and Purity Sanga on its way to a sixth–place team finish on Saturday at the Ohio Valley Conference Outdoor Championships in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Taking sixth in the final standings ends Tech's reign of three consecutive OVC championships (2018 indoor, 2018 outdoor, 2019 indoor), which were also the first three in the program's history.
While some key pieces were not in the lineup this weekend, the Golden Eagles never gave up, and still managed to finished in the top half of the 12 women's teams in attendance.
The Golden Eagles scored a total of 71 points at the meet, with 46 of them coming on Saturday. All-around star Khemani Roberts was Tech's top individual scorer on the weekend, playing a role in 23 points, followed by Purity Sanga with 18, and Raven Smith and Ceirra Tate with 16 each.
Murray State won the league championship on the women's side with a total of 137 points. Eastern Illinois' men's team was victorious with 175.5 tallies.
Purity Sanga highlighted the Golden Eagle Saturday by adding another individual championship to her highly-decorated mantle, and coming agonizingly close to a second one.
The sophomore from Kenya claimed the top spot on the podium for the 5,000 meters, making her the league champion for both the indoor and outdoor campaigns. At the indoor championships in February, she became the first-ever Golden Eagle to win the event at the league meet, and is now the first to notch the sweep of both settings.
Her time of 16-minutes, 50.83-seconds led a field of 22 in the event, and was nearly six-and-a-half seconds faster than the second-place finisher, Kortney Schardt of Belmont.
Sanga was very nearly the champion of the 1,500 meters as well, posting a time of 4:36.96. Instead, she came in as the runner-up by a painfully slim margin, finishing a little over a half-second behind Southeast Missouri's Carli Knott (4:36.40).
Sanga's sensational sophomore season is not over yet, as she will compete in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA East Preliminary Round in Jacksonville, Fla., May 23-25.
Smith added her second runner-up result of the Championships on Saturday, leaping 12.24 meters (40 feet, 2 inches) in the triple jump. The Atlanta native, who entered as the No. 2 seed in the competition, was beaten only by top-seeded Brittney Gibbs of SIUE, who leapt 12.50 meters (41-0 1/4).
At both championship meets in 2019, Smith finished first or second in the long jump and the triple jump, and now holds the school records for the indoor and outdoor triple jump, as well as the outdoor long jump.
Smith, a senior, will get at least one more collegiate meet as a Golden Eagle, as she will join Sanga at the NCAA East Preliminaries as a triple-jump competitor.
Behind Sanga's 18, Ceirra Tate was TTU's second-highest point-scorer on Saturday, taking third place in the 400 meters and fourth in the 200 meters, and running a leg of the fourth-place 4x100-meter relay team.
Tate's 400-meter time of 55.87 seconds was .03 behind the personal best she set on Friday, and was much closer to the second-place finisher (Amelia Theising, APSU, 55.65) than the fourth-place runner (Payton Barlow, Belmont, 56.65).
She led off the 4x100m relay for Tech as well, setting the table for the team's mark of 47.44 seconds. Roberts, Teauna Anderson and Na'Scottisha Drummond were the other members of the Golden Eagle quartet, respectively.
Finally, Tate slotted fifth in the 200 thanks to her time of 24.90 seconds.
In addition to running with Tate on the 4x100m relay team, Roberts joined Tate in the 200-meter finals as well, and came across the finish line right after her, taking fifth place with a time of 24.96 seconds.
Barring any late additions, Roberts will make up the final piece of the Tech trio at the NCAA East Preliminary meet, where she will take part in the high jump.
Eshe' Robinson competed with Smith in the triple jump and recorded a series-best of 11.17 meters (36-7 3/4) in just her second career attempt in the event.
Abby Mink threw the shot put for Tech on Saturday, and registered a mark of 10.95 (35-11 1/4) meters as her best distance.
Photo by Tom Skelly