The University of Memphis men's track and field squad was the runner-up (107 points) at the 2018 American Athletic Conference Indoor Championships this weekend. The Tigers men’s team second-place finish is the best at a conference indoor meet since Memphis won the Tennessee Interscholastic Athletic Conference (TIAC) title in 1959.
The men’s team performed well despite the absence of three of their top performers. LaForrest Church (2016 800m champion), Olushola Olojo (2017 triple jump champion) and Jordan Wesner (2017 high jump champion) did not compete due to injuries. Senior Aaron Persinger placed second in the men’s 60-meter hurdles event, en route to earning all-conference honors for the first time in his collegiate career.
“I’m very blessed to have been healthy,” Persinger said. “I couldn't be happier with how it all went, and it feels awesome.”
The two-day event was held over the weekend at the Birmingham Crossplex. Memphis was one of eight men’s teams to participate, while 12 schools fought for the women’s conference crown.
“As a squad, we all came together and gave it our best,” said Persinger. “On finals day, the first event, the men's mile, exceeded expectations and it snowballed from there.”
The men’s team improved from last season after finishing fourth at the 2017 American Athletic Conference Indoor Championships. The women’s squad placed 10th at the conference indoor championships.
Graduate student Luke Vaughn was arguably the top performer in the men’s team to a second-place finish. He placed first in shot put in the second day of the meet. Vaughn’s 61-5 (18.72m) shot put effort broke the previous school record of 59-7 (18.16m) by nearly two feet. He held the previous school record, which he set at the 2017 American Athletic Conference Indoor Championships.
Vaughn was not the only Memphis thrower to perform at a high level at the meet. Senior Rafael Vallery and sophomore Adam Neelly both set personal best over the weekend. Vallery’s 58-5.75 (17.82m) effort earned him a second-place finish and Neely finished right behind him with 57-9 (17.60m) performance.
Neelly and Vallery were two of eight Tigers who earned All-American Athletic Conference indoor honors for the first time in their careers Saturday.
Calvin Austin placed second overall (21.26) in the men’s 200-meter event. Austin along with Ryan Champlin and Jarred Pasley, placed second in the men’s 400-meter relay. This is the third-straight year the team posted a top-two finish in men’s relay (2nd in 2016/1st in 2017). Pasley also placed second in the men’s 400-meter event.
Senior Brock Ballard earned the first all-conference honors of his career with a third-place finish in the men’s mile (4:12.06).
Junior Saida Burns-Moore was the only member of the women’s team to place higher than fifth place at this weekend’s meet. Burns-Moore finished second in women’s high jump (1.73-meters) and fourth (12.23) in the women’s triple jump event. She bested her personal-best high jump by one inch. Her high jump performance earned her all-conference honors for the first time in her three-year career.
Luke Vaughn performs at the American Athletic Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships. During the KMS Invitational, he set the record in the men's shot put. (Credit-Michael Wade of Go Tigers Go)
Cera Chavez runs at the American Athletic Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships. At the Dec.2 Vanderbilt Opener, she set a school record in the women's 60 meters.