ABILENE – For the third straight year, Tarleton track and field opened up its outdoor season 90 miles west down Interstate 20 at the ACU Wes Kittley Invitational.
And for the third straight year, the Texans put on a show at Elmer Gray Stadium.
Over the course of the two-day affair, Tarleton saw seven athletes finish in the top-three of their respective events, posted 10 top-five individual finishes, placed 32 athletes in the top-10 of results sheets and notched a litany of personal records.
Tarleton exhibited the impressive showing against a 14-team field that featured host and Western Athletic Conference rival Abilene Christian, Big 12 power Texas Tech and former Lone Star Conference rivals Angelo State and Texas A&M-Kingsville.
The WAC Outdoor Championships are still two months away. But Saturday’s collective showing in field events flashed Tarleton’s prognosticated podium potential.
Especially in the women’s high jump, where the Texans have a legitimate claim as to boasting the conference’s best one-two punch in the event. Freshman Rylee Hennig tied for first, clearing 5′ 5.75. Gentrye Munden, the reigning WAC Outdoor Champion, jumped 5′ 3.75″ to claim second place.
Not to be outdone in the men’s high jump were freshmen Jamariyan Howlett and Kyler Seymore, who leapt 6′ 7.50″ and 6′ 5.5″, respectively, to place fourth and seventh. Seymore’s jump signified a personal record.
Along the edge of track’s purple straightaway, Nakia Dunn and Jaden Hall continued their push toward becoming the greatest triple jumpers Tarleton has ever seen. Dunn finished third in the women’s competition with a mark of 38′ 3.25″ while Hall took fourth place and registered a personal record with a leap of 47′ 3.75″.
Dunn’s day was not done, however, as the junior took seventh place in the long jump earlier in the day at 17′ 9.5″.
Kyndal Gladson was Tarleton’s top performer in the long jump on either side. The heptathlete recorded a monster personal record of 18′ 8″ to nab third place.
Elise Smith started the day in style, taking second place in the javelin with a personal record of 137′ 6″. Smith, who finished fifth in the event at the 2021 Southland Conference Championships, moved to third in school history with the performance.
Smith’s effort was the apex of a solid all-around effort in throwing events. Ben Presley slung the spear 163′ 2″ to finish eighth in a 25-man field. Oscar Rodriguez began his quest to defend the WAC discus championship by placing seventh with a heave of 160′ 0″. Elena Reagan was Tarleton’s top performer in the women’s discus, as the senior threw the disc 130′ 7″ to take 12th place.
A pair of underclassmen wrapped up the field events by illustrating Tarleton’s developing nucleus in the pole vault. Allison Robling made her outdoor debut and cleared 10′ 11.75″ to place 10th. Later in the day, decathlete Isaac Hutchings notched an outdoor personal record of 14′ 1.25″ to finish 13th.
The action did not slow down as the meet transitioned to the track, where personal records rolled in from all directions and distances.
For the second straight day, Jenna Brazeal was Tarleton’s highest-placing finisher in running events. Brazeal, who owns Tarleton’s indoor 800m school record, took second place in the event at 2:16.55. The junior turned in the time less than 24 hours after finishing third in the 1,500m with a personal record of 4:45.13.
Tarleton’s sprint squad lived up to its billing as perhaps Tarleton’s deepest event group.
Justin Raines, the WAC Indoor Freshman of the Year and 60m champion, clocked the fifth-fastest 200m time in school history (21.33 seconds) and finished fifth out of 46 competitors. The Copperas Cove native was also Tarleton’s’ top performer in the 110m hurdles, as he notched his second top-10 finish of the afternoon by placing ninth in 24.67 seconds.
Fellow freshman Reid Vincent joined Raines in racing up Tarleton’s all-time outdoor top-10 list. Vincent posted Tarleton’s fastest 100m time in two years (10.83 seconds) and finished 10th in the event.
On the women’s side, Hanna Dudley and Nyla Barlow had themselves an afternoon to remember.
Dudley notched personal records and cracked the top-10 in both the 100m and the 200m. She crossed the 100m finish line in 11.91 seconds – tied for the fourth-fastest time in school history – to place third, then took ninth in the 200m at 24.55 seconds.
Barlow, who owns Tarleton’s indoor 200m school record (24.53 seconds), nearly cemented herself as the greatest competitor in program history in the event. She won her heat and finished fourth in 24.08 seconds to notch a lifetime personal record and move to No. 2 on Tarleton’s outdoor school record list. She is within three-tenths of a second of breaking DeAijha Boye-Hicks’ school record of 23.76 seconds.
Breonna Campbell notched lifetime personal records and placed 12th in both the 100m and 200m with times of 12.19 seconds and 24.82 seconds. Summer Croxton was not far behind, as she surpassed her previous personal bests in the events and took 13th place behind times of 12.24 seconds and 24.99 seconds.
The 400m run was equally kind to Tarleton.
Four athletes broke 1:00 on the women’s side. Jordan Anglin led the way with a season personal record of 56.78 seconds to take eighth place. Alessa King joined Anglin in the top-10 with a lifetime personal of 57.72 seconds. Freshmen Brenna Lee (58.91 seconds) and Macie Evans (59.32 seconds) then each broke 1:00 for the first time on the collegiate outdoor scene.
In the men’s race, Brandon McKissick, a two-time All-WAC honoree in the event, led the charge with a time of 48.21 seconds to finish ninth. Bailey Smotek, who joined McKissick in earning all-conference first team credentials as a part of Tarleton’s championship-winning 4x400m relay team in 2021, finished 15th with a lifetime personal record of 49.29 seconds. Relay-mate Zach Martinez was the third athlete to post a split below 50 seconds, as the senior crossed the finish line in 49.96 seconds.
Later in the 800m, distance specialist Kevin Baez ran the race for the first time collegiately. He was Tarleton’s fastest finisher, placing 12th in 1:58.73. Sophomore Kevin Calvani broke 2:00 as well and finished one spot back of Baez at 1:59.43. Kailey Sykora joined Brazezl in cracking the top-10 in the women’s race, as the freshman finished 10th behind a lifetime personal record of 2:27.24.
All seven women’s athletes who competed in hurdles finished with personal records.
Karleigh Hill placed sixth in the 400m hurdles (1:05.71) and was 10th in the 100m hurdles (15.30 seconds) to lead the way.
Khloe Turnbull blazed across the 100m hurdles finish line in 14.89 seconds to post Tarleton’s top time in the event.
Ashlynn Cash joined Hill and Turnbull in the top-10 with an eighth-place finish in the 400m hurdles at 1:06.71.
Fellow heptathlete Rese Schoonover and Gladson came in at 15th and 16th, respectively, in the 100m hurdles with times of 16.06 seconds and 16.14 seconds.
Kyndel Beck wrapped up the showing on the women’s side by finishing 11th in the 400m hurdles in 1:08.77.
The momentum carried over into the men’s 110m hurdles and 400m hurdles.
Brady Sisneroz took eighth place in the 400m hurdles with a lifetime personal record of 54.89 seconds. Freshmen Konnor Hoerman and Brett Munoz each made their collegiate outdoor debuts with personal records. Hoerman clocked in at 15.44 seconds in the 110m hurdles while Munoz posted a split of 57.69 seconds in the 400m hurdles.
Tarleton closed the show by taking the first step toward repeating as WAC champions in the men’s 4x400m relay. In order, McKissick, Smotek, Vincent and Martinez won their heat and finished fifth overall in 3:17.49.
The Texans will now travel three relay teams and a select group of athletes to the prestigious Texas Relays, which run from Wednesday-Saturday in Austin.