The Missouri Valley Conference women’s track and field title may as well start paying rent at Horton Field House. At the league’s championship meet May 14-16 in Carbondale, the Illinois State women’s team won its third straight outdoor MVC crown and seventh overall including indoor titles. Here’s a look at how the Redbirds have become the keepers of the oval.
Piling up the points
The Redbirds scored 232 points over the three-day competition hosted by Southern Illinois University. That point total bested the previous MVC championship record of 226 that Wichita State set back in 2017.
Head coach Jeff Bovee earned the league’s coach of the year honors after the meet. He also received that honor for the indoor season.
Continuing the legacy
The Redbirds who were around to start the streak made sure they weren’t the ones to end it. Reaching that level of high-end consistency year after year has meant a lot to a decorated group of upperclassmen.
“It’s really rewarding to know that we represent Illinois State as a successful track and field school and to keep that tradition going for as many years as we have has been really amazing,” said senior Jordyn Bruce.
Teammate and graduate student Grace Beattie has taken great pride in the program’s rise to prominence.
“It’s just extremely fulfilling to be a part of it and to be a leading factor in it, just really brings the team together and creates a legacy at ISU where people want to come and pay attention,” Beattie said. “This past week, I’ve been running on the trails and people have been coming up to me saying ‘awesome job.’ They might not know who I am, but they know I’m on the ISU team and it’s been cool to see our track and field program become part of the community.”
Stars of the show
Scoring 232 points in a singular meet illustrates the depth on the roster, and the Redbirds have had plenty of key contributors this spring both indoors and outdoors. These athletes are capable of scoring 10 points—the amount for first place—every time they toe the line, step in the circle, or line up a jump.
Jordyn Bruce: Thanks to 26 points she scored at the conference’s outdoor championships, Bruce earned the MVC Women’s Most Valuable Athlete Award, marking the first time a Redbird has won the honor. The senior won the heptathlon with 5,439 points and also won the 400-meter hurdles in 58.80 seconds. Her heptathlon score and 400-meter hurdles time were both second-best in school history. She also finished third in the 100-meter hurdles in 13.75 seconds, which was good for fourth all-time at Illinois State.
Grace Beattie: The Woodstock native broke the meet record and won her second-straight Missouri Valley Conference 3,000-meter steeplechase title in a time of 10 minutes, 7.04 seconds. That was three seconds better than former Redbird Kristen Zillmer’s 2014 meet record of 10:10.72.
On April 2, Beattie set Illinois State University’s Outdoor Track & Field Complex facility record in the 5,000-meter run, crossing the line in 16:06.28 at the Redbird Invite. That was a minute faster than the previous record, which was Wichita State’s Tonya Nero set in 2011 with a time of 16:46.47.
Beattie also holds the ISU Outdoor Track & Field Complex facility record in the 1,500-meter run, set at the ISU Invite 4:23.32 and the Ole Miss Track & Field Complex facility record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at 10:02.73. She is No. 2 in school history in the steeplechase, the 1,500 and the 5,000. She was named the MVC Women’s Track Most Outstanding Performer at the conference championship meet, where she also took second in the 1,500.
Sydney Laufenberg: A graduate student using her extra year of eligibility after the 2020 season was canceled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Laufenberg won her third MVC discus title with a season-best throw of 56.68 meters (185 feet, 11 inches.), just missing the Valley meet record. In 2019, she earned second-team All-American honors after placing 14th at the NCAA national meet.
Grace Daun: The freshman in outdoors won her first career MVC high jump title after taking second at both the 2020 and 2021 MVC Indoor Championship meets. Daun cleared 1.74 meters (5 feet, 8.5 inches) to get the win and give Illinois State its fifth-straight conference champion in the high jump between indoors and outdoors.
In addition, the 4×400-meter relay team of Destiny White, Audrey Harrod, Whitney Ward, and Jaclyn Greci won the Missouri Valley Conference outdoor title in a time of 3:41.91.
This is the 10th fastest time in school history.
Kameesha Smith: While she only competed during the indoor season, the senior rose to the national stage again, earning second-team All-American honors by placing 10th at the NCAA indoor championships on March 12 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She placed 12th at the NCAA outdoor meet in 2019.
Smith’s best jump of the winter was a historic one, as she bested a 29-year-old school record, clearing the bar 1.82 meters (5 feet, 11.5 inches) high on February 12 at the Grand Valley State University Big Meet in Allendale, Michigan. She then broke her own record at the 2021 MVC Indoor Championships, clearing a personal best 1.83 meters (6 feet). Tiffani Archey ‘93 previously set the record at 1.81 meters (5 feet, 11.25 inches) in 1992.
The Redbirds are set to compete in the NCAA West Preliminary Round Wednesday through Saturday in College Station, Texas. The NCAA Outdoor Championships will be held June 9-12 in Eugene, Oregon.
The following Redbirds from both the men’s and women’s teams are regional qualifiers: Brandon Ratliff, Jack Anstey, Riley Wells, Logan Calvin, Kellen Kravik, Amiri Buchanan, Grace Beattie, Grace Daun, Kristin Higgins, Mye’Joi Williams, Tayler Weaver, Julia Bourke, Sydney Laufenberg, Jordyn Bruce, and Whitney Ward.