WICHITA, Kan. - Junior Emma Hatch used an inspired performance to secure a victory in the women's 10,000m run final as the Loyola University Chicago track & field teams opened up competition at the 2017 Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships today in Wichita, Kan.
"We got off to a hot start on day one of the MVC Championships," Loyola head track & field coach Bob Thurnhoffer said. "The 10Ks were definitely the highlight. Coach Alan Peterson guided Emma through a perfectly executed race strategy to help her walk away with an MVC title. It's a great moment for both of them and the program. Alex (Baker) had a great race in the men's 10K as well, chipping in a fifth-place finish. Jaz (Hayes) looked sensational in winning his heat of the 200m dash with a season-best 21.14 that will help his chances of getting to the West Regional. Kevin (Cooney) capped off a breakout sophomore season with a seventh-place finish in the hammer throw as well. He's worked extremely hard this year and it's clearly paid off. The Ramblers are revved up and ready to go for day two!"
Following a tight start, Hatch and Hannah Truninger of Northern Iowa separated themselves from the pack on a mild evening in Wichita. With Truninger in front entering the final 400m, Hatch, a native of Cleves, Ohio, used a final kick to surge in front en route to capturing the first individual league title of her career.
"Emma ran an incredible race tonight," Loyola assistant track & field coach Alan Peterson commented. "She stayed patient when other moves were made and ran the race that we talked about. She's been training for the 10K since the indoor season and took full advantage of the opportunity she had today. The MVC is a very tough league and she demonstrated today that she is one of its top distance runners."
Loyola's men's side picked up points in the team race from redshirt junior Alex Baker and sophomore Kevin Cooney. Baker battled his way to a fifth-place finish in the 10,000m run, racing across in 30:50.49. Cooney wrapped up an impressive sophomore campaign by claiming seventh in the hammer throw, where he registered a top toss of 173-10 (52.99m).
In preliminary action, seniors Chandler Diffee and Jaz Hayes and junior Cassie Bloch all booked spots in Sunday's finals. Diffee claimed the last of three at-large qualifying spots in the men's 1,500m run as he checked in at 3:58.13 in the second heat of the event. Hayes posted a season-best time of 21.14 to win his heat in the men's 200m dash. That mark unofficially moves the Louisville, Ky. product into a tie for 76th on the NCAA West Region leaderboard in the event. Bloch, fresh off a third-place finish in the mile run at the indoor league meet back in February, took second in her heat of the 1,500m run with a time of 4:31.91 to earn her finals berth.
The second day of the 2017 Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships will get underway at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. Live coverage of select events will begin at 4:45 p.m. on The Valley on ESPN3.