Howard, Clark propel ETSU to solid showing in SoCon

By Wes Holtsclaw

STAR CORRESPONDENT

   The East Tennessee State men and women's track and field teams entered the finals of Saturday's SoCon Indoor Track Championships looking to polish up on their previous performance, and faired quite well.
   But it would be the Appalachian State crews that would sweep both titles, making the folks up in Boone, N.C. very happy.
   The Bucs started the day well, as Chad Hyder stepped up to take third place in the shot put with a 14.68 meter toss. It was a sign of good things for ETSU.
   In the men's 1-mile run, Brad Yewer worked his way up from tenth place to a respectable third in the tough competition, drawing a 4:16.92 time.
   "I was quite pleased," said Yewer. "I was feeling quite tired after yesterday, and just wanted to get points more than anything. I wanted to work my way up after finishing fourth yesterday. I hung in there. The other two guys were just a bit too good today, but I'm happy."
   In the men's 55 meter hurdles, Kaylin Chesney ran a 8.09 second performance to take third over Kevin Solomon from VMI, who also had an 8.09 mark.
   In the men's long jump, Charvin Clark stepped one notch above the rest, earning an NCAA tournament provisional with his 7.63 meter leap, taking the SoCon championship.
   "It feels good," said Clark. "It took me three years to get here. I get to go to the nationals, which has been my dream, so it feels real good."
   Perhaps the biggest male performer of the day was James Grufferty, who pulled out a big upset in the men's 5,000-meter run. With under a lap left, Grufferty passed Stece Kocsis of UT-Chattanooga on the front stretch, taking a 14:50.98 time and the SoCon championship.
   On the women's side, ETSU had some strong performance on the track side. As Jennifer Howard doubled with podium performances in the 400-meter and the 200-meter runs.
   In the 400 meter dash, Howard blew away all of the competition with four laps remaining, to take a 56.95 time and the SoCon championship.
   "The win feels great," said Howard. "I just got what I wanted from around the corners. I got the win, and I give God all of the praise. He had to help me through this one."
   The 200 meter was a different story, as Ronetta Burgess from Western Carolina blew away all competition, leaving Howard to compete for and take the third-place spot with a 25.04 time.
   ETSU had two other females place second after leading the majority of their respective races, then losing to a last-second stretch by Appalachian State competitors.
   The first event was the 55-meter dash, where Chantelle Vernon took it down the stretch until Jennifer Claud stretched out at the line. Taking the win by one-hundreth of a second, with the 7.04 and 7.05 times.
   The biggest shock in the women's competition was when Rosaline Addo lost to Katie Sujkowski on a last-ditch stretch in the 800 meter run after leading the entire race.
   Addo didn't see Sujkowski coming and lost by .03 seconds, pulling out a 2:13.32 time compared to Sujkowski's 2:13.29.
   "I wasn't even tired coming down there," said Addo, after the loss. "If I had seen her I would have made it two or three seconds faster."
   ETSU's women 4X400 relay team finished second in the competition, losing to Western Carolina, which set a new meet record with a 3:48.89 to the Bucs' 3:51.82 mark.
   The best run of the day had to be the men's 800 meter run, when Caleb Bailey of Western Carolina shot came from last to first on the backstretch of the last lap to take the first-place win.
   It was a shocker to the crowd, as UT-Chattanooga's Ryan Kendall and Robert Hatcher entered the event as favorites, but finished second and third, respectively.
   But the day would belong to Appalachian State, which in the end had the most total team dominance, winning both the men's and women's point standings by a landslide.
   SoCon track returns to Johnson City, where the outdoor championships will be held at the Liberty Bell complex, on April 19 and 20.