Watching each event unfold at a conference track meet, UNO coach Steve Smith said, is a little like watching a baseball game.
“It’s like each event is an inning,” he said. “After each event, you add up the runs and see who’s winning.”
Smith’s Maverick women’s team is set to compete in the three-day Summit League outdoor championships in Muncie, Ind., from Thursday through Saturday.
And, to keep the baseball analogy going, multi-event star Sami Spenner will be swinging away a lot all weekend. Same, too, for distance runner Amanda Vorthmann.
Those two, plus the rest of a talented but depth-challenged group of 20, will take aim at matching their feat of finishing second at the Summit indoor meet earlier this year.
North Dakota State is the prohibitive favorite.
“There are more throwing events (at the outdoor meet), and we’ve only got two throwers for four events,” Smith said. “And we still don’t have a pole vaulter, so we kind of punt that event. But after that, it’s about the same.
“Us, South Dakota, South Dakota State and (Missouri-)Kansas City, those should be in the top five (behind NDSU).”
Spenner, a junior from Columbus, Neb., will compete in the heptathlon as well as the 100- and 200-meter dashes, the long jump, triple jump and high jump, and on the Mavs’ 4x100 and 4x400 relays.
“She’ll be busy,” Smith said. “She’ll be doing two things at once at times, participating in a jump, then changing her shoes to run a race.”
In addition to being the overwhelming favorite in the heptathlon, Spenner ranks third in the league in the 100 (11.91 seconds), second in the 200 (23.97), first in the long jump (20 feet, 9 34 inches), second in the triple jump and fourth in the high jump (5-6).
Smith said Spenner will look to maximize her point total, even if it means performing less than her best in the heptathlon.
“If she did just the heptathlon, I’m sure she could shatter the conference record,” he said. “But it might make her too tired to do some of the other stuff as well. So she’ll hold back the reins a little in the heptathlon, conserve some energy and come back and do the other events.”
Meanwhile, Vorthmann, a senior from Oakland, Iowa, starts her weekend with the 10,000 meters, the first of four distance events she’ll run.
She’s recorded the league’s second-best time in the 10,000 (36 minutes, 15.97 seconds) and is ranked fourth in the 1,500 (4:36.33), fifth in the 3,000 steeplechase (10:57.41) and seventh in the 5,000.
Other top UNO individuals include sprinter Maja Mihalinec, who ranks first in the 100 (11.80 seconds) and third in the 200 (24.23); middle distance runners Katarina Zarudnaya (first in the 1,500 meters at 4:31.06, and second in the 800, 2:10.22) and Lauren Psota (third in the 800, 2:14.11); and jumper Kathie-Lee Laidley (second long jump, 20-1; second high jump, 5-8 12; sixth in 100 hurdles, 14.27).
Mihalinec, Spenner, Laidley and Terri Armstrong make up UNO’s top-ranked 4x100 relay (46.30 seconds).
The Mavs are ineligible to compete in NCAA championship-related meets as the school continues its transition to Division I. But there’s no advantage in catching Summit League rivals looking, and training, for bigger and better things.
“There’s a few athletes around the conference trying to make the regional meet, but this conference doesn’t produce too many national people,” Smith said. “It’s the culmination of an entire year of training, so it’s good to come together as a team.”
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