Tiger track peaking with perfect timing

Peaking during championships is what every coach wants. At last weekend's All Comers meet, the Tigers started hitting their stride just in time for their two biggest meets of the indoor season ' the Big 12 meet Friday through Sunday in Lincoln, Neb., and the NCAA meet March 14-15 in Fayetteville, Ark.

"Our practices have gone great," coach Rick McGuire said. "I'm thrilled with how we've gotten here."

For MU, peaking means setting personal records, McGuire said. More than a dozen personal records were set at last week's meet. McGuire also said that would not be enough to guarantee anything. The Big 12 is one of the nation's best conferences for track, rivaling the SEC.

"A lot of kids will have a great meet and not even make finals," McGuire said. "Hopefully, that doesn't happen to my kids."

The Tigers will look to sophomore Amanda Bales, who has the Big 12's best time this season in both the mile run and the 3,000-meter run, to enforce the team's competitive attitude. Bales has already qualified for the NCAA meet and could skip Friday's meet, but she said she plans to run the mile and the 1,000 meters.

"Having made the NCAAs does take off some pressure, but I'll still have the same mindset," Bales said.

McGuire said he hopes his traditional strengths in the middle distance, throwing, jumping and combined events of the heptathalon and decathalon continue to be strengths for his team. MU will hope for big performances from pole vaulter Jennifer Bennett, thrower Russ Bell, decathalete Knut Sommerfeldt, middle distance-runner Timothy Dunne and high jumper Jesse Sims.

Sims, who made the Big 12 indoor and outdoor meets as a freshman, said the high jump is going to be a competitive event, and he hopes his best jump has been saved for now.

"I've been through this twice before so this time I know the drill," Sims said. "But it's still going to be a knock-down, drag-them-out fight for the title."

Nebraska, Texas and Kansas State are the meet favorites. All three schools recruit some of the best athletes, many of whom play football and other sports as well, McGuire said. He also said MU could be considered a meet favorite elsewhere.

"If we had this conversation in Manhattan, (Kan.), they'd be talking about us as well," McGuire said.

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