NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Championship season is here for indoor track and field as the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks and Ladyjacks look to claim Southland Conference Championships again this week. This year’s SLC Indoor Championship will be held at the Birmingham CrossPlex in Alabama on Wednesday and Thursday where SFA had some success earlier this season.
Action starts Wednesday morning with the combined events as the women compete in the pentathlon and day one of the heptathlon for the men begins. Field events and running preliminaries begin in the afternoon. Then, competition resumes Thursday morning with the conclusion of the heptathlon with field events slated to start at 11 a.m. and running finals starting at noon.
The Ladyjacks have been the dominant team in the Southland of late winning five straight titles both indoors and outdoors. That streak of five straight women’s conference title sweeps ranks third in the nation behind Jacksonville’s eight consecutive in/out sweeps in the SWAC and North Dakota State’s six straight in the Summit League.
SFA’s men also won both indoor and outdoor titles last season and the Lumberjacks hope to get another victory and keep SFA atop the league in track and field.
This year’s conference championship meet will have a different look with some new members in the league and competing at the CrossPlex. Many of the league’s teams competed at the facility during the regular season to get a feel for the surface and venue, as it is one of only six indoor track and field facilities in the nation with a banked 200-meter track and a Mondo surface.
Head Coach Phil Olson said he hopes to see his teams come away with another championship performance. This year’s meet will be a better competition as well, he said, with more competitive fields across the board in all events adding to the drama of the meet.
“The Southland Conference Championship will be an exciting competition with a lot of new schools and much deeper fields than we have seen in awhile. Both of our teams should match up well with the best teams the conference has to offer,” Olson said.
Although SFA has won both conference titles last year, Olson said the league has had some outstanding individual performances making this a difficult meet to predict and the ‘Jacks will have to put together solid marks in every event to come away with the championship trophy again this year.
“I don't know if we can be considered, at least on paper, to be a favorite to win a team championship, but our team has a wonderful quality of competing at the highest levels,” Olson said. “I can promise that we will fight and scratch for every point possible. Who will win is anyone's guess."
SFA has a handful of athletes currently ranked No. 1 in the league, highlighted by both 4x400 relay teams. The men and women are more than three seconds faster than the No. 2 team on the performance charts for the league.
Melai Carter is the top high jumper in the league on the women’s side so far this season and is the defending champion in the event.
Jamal Davis is the top combined events athlete on the men’s side ranked No. 1 in the Southland in the heptathlon. The men’s team could score a lot of points in the event, as four of the top six athletes in the league are Lumberjacks.
The women’s squad hopes to score points in bunches in the throwing events. La’Tricia Griffin is the defending champion in the shot put and currently ranks third in the Southland. Teammate Jessica Spelling is ranked fourth in the event. Griffin also finished second last year in the weight throw to tally a total of 18 points for SFA in the throws by herself and earn Outstanding Field Performer at the meet.
Fans can follow the action online with live results provided at cfpitiming.com. The Southland Conference has a meet central page on its website with a meet schedule and other information available.
Tickets are just $15 for an all-session pass for adults and $10 for a single-day. Children 13 and under get in for $5 and parking is $3.