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Morris hosts UMAC Track & Field Championships

MORRIS, Minn. -- Five men's and women's teams will each compete for the right to be called the 2012 UMAC Outdoor Track & Field Champions on Saturday as the University of Minnesota Morris hosts the league championships.

In men's action, Minnesota Morris hopes to keep the UMAC trophy in its grip for the third consecutive year, having won both the 2010 and 2011 championships. The Cougars feature several defending champions, including Leandro Dower, who is the reigning medal winner in the 200 meter dash. Dower enters the 100 and 200 meter dashes as the top seed. Also defending his individual championship will be Ryan DeRoeck, who won the high jump event last year. DeRoeck, Morris' school record holder in that event, is the top seed amongst conference opponents in the high jump in 2012.

The College of St. Scholastica, who took second in both of the last two years' UMAC Championships, return with some well known names such as Tom Lyscio. Lyscio is currently ranked 12th in all of NCAA Division III in the hammer throw, an event in which he holds the Saints' program record. Other school record holders who will compete on Saturday for St. Scholastica include Charlie Habermann (steeplechase), Connor Stevens (decathlon) and the 4x200 meter relay team of Sherome Milon, Justin Hanson, Ryan Guentzel and Addison Griffin.

Taylor Gish returns for Northwestern College after what his head coach, Steve Thiessen, describes as an outstanding senior year. Gish has broken his own school record in both the hammer throw and discus meters and has won UMAC championships in each. Gish is currently ranked 17th and 28th in the nation in the two events. Derek Schlager is also enjoying an outstanding senior year for the Eagles that included personal bests in the 800, 1500 and 5,000 meter races. Keep an eye out for Northwestern freshman Willie Jones IV, who is the Eagles' best when it comes to the 400 meter dash and three jump events.

Martin Luther College comes to Saturday's meet boasting Philip Loescher, a javelin thrower who has followed in the footsteps of his brother, Andrew Loescher, the 2011 UMAC Championship Field Athlete of the Meet. Philip has finished in the top four in every meet the Knights have competed in this season, including a first place finish at the recent Gustavus Adophus meet with a hurl of 51.58 meters. Micah Foelske also competes in the javelin throw and has posted a pair of sixth place finishes in 2012. Loescher and Foelske finished third and fourth at last year's championship.

Rounding out the men's championship field is North Central University. The Rams are currently riding the wave of Jake Guttormson, a 1,500 meter runner who set a 4:31.32 personal best this season and placed sixth in the 1,600 meter race at the UMAC Indoor Meet in February. Evan Fortunato has seen his name in the UMAC Outdoor Honor Roll in both the shot put and discus events.

St. Scholastica has dominated the all-time track and field championships list on the women's side, having won the last seven UMAC titles. The Saints are currently ranked fifth in the central region and have placed four marks in the top 20 nationally. Alec Seeley, who owns multiple UMAC outdoor medals, is ranked eighth in the country in the hammer throw. Tracy Perish is right behind Seeley at No. 9 in the heptathlon, while Becky Huberty and Rachel Miller are currently 15th and 19th, respectively, in the hammer throw and triple jump events. More St. Scholastica runners and throwers have broken school records this year, including Laurel Ohaju, a sprinter who owns the Saints' program marks in the 200 and 400 meter races and as a part of the distance medley relay team.

Linda Keller headlines Morris' women's team, entering Saturday's championship ranked first in 800 and 1,500 meter races and the 5k race, where she is ranked in the top 20 in the country. Kaylie Clark currently owns the NCAA Division III's seventh-best javelin mark and is the defending conference champion in that event. Jennie LaRoque is also a top 20 performer in the country in the high jump, an event in which she'll enter the UMAC finale as the first seed.

For Northwestern, Karina Nordrum has set the school record in the shot put (11.65 meters) twice during her freshman season. During the season, Nordrum has placed among the top ten on several occasions. Alyssa Temte saw limited competition during the indoor season as she battled a hamstring injury. However, Temte has hit her stride during the outdoor portion of 2012, achieving personal best performances in the 100, 200 and 100 meter hurdles in addition to the long jump. Temte set a school record in the 100 meter hurdles at the River Falls Invitational on April 14.

Emilee Koltz is a distance runner who has competed well for the Martin Luther women this year. Koltz, who competes in the 800 and 5,000 meter races, finished first in the 5,000 meter run at the Minnesota Morris Invitational with a time of 19:48.11. Koltz has also participated in the 1,500 meter run this season. Hannah Hackbarth is a mid-distance runner to watch from the Knights, as she took home top 10 finishes at Gustavus Adolphus and Minnesota Morris.

North Central University is led by 800 meter runner Sarah Quist, who set a personal best in the 800 meter run this season with a mark of 2:41.71 and took seventh place at the UMAC Indoor Championship. The Rams are also proud of Melissa Kidd, a shot put thrower who set a personal long of 10.81 meters this season. Kidd missed the UMAC indoor meet due to National Guard duty.

Saturday's field events begin at 12 p.m. before the preliminary running events take place between 1-2 p.m. Finals for running events will begin at 2 p.m. Weather forecasts are calling for a high of 67 degrees with a 30 percent chance of rain. Winds are expected to be out of the east at 14 miles per hour.