BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - The WKU track and field teams feature a wide diversity of athletes from different regions around the world.
From South Africa to South America, from Europe to Florida, WKU head coach Erik Jenkins' recruiting lives up the university slogan "A leading American university with international reach." Jenkins also places strong emphasis on recruiting in his own backyard, however, as four student-athletes from the state of Kentucky scored major points for WKU at this past weekend's Sun Belt Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships.
"We place high importance on recruiting the state of Kentucky," said head coach Erik Jenkins. "We aim to diversify our recruiting base internationally, nationally and even more importantly on a regional basis. Five of our student-athletes from the state were vital in our conference championship winning efforts this weekend and it will continue to be our mission to recruit and develop the most talented track and field athletes in our region."
WKU boasts 23 student-athletes from the state of Kentucky on its men's and women's track teams, four of which were named all-Sun Belt Conference during the 2013 Indoor Championships.
Hickman, Ky. native Sharika Smith, an All-American long and triple jumper in 2011, nabbed an individual title and a second-place medal at the Sun Belt Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships. Smith won the triple jump title with a leap of 41-feet-0.75 inches, the third-longest mark in school history. She set the school record in 2011 with a 42-feet-3 ½ jump. Smith captured second-place honors in the long jump with a mark of 20-feet-2 inches. Entering the final outdoor season of her career, Smith has earned all-Sun Belt Conference honors eight times.
Fellow senior Houston Croney (Hopkinsville, Ky.) notched his third-consecutive all-Sun Belt Conference honor at the indoor championships, placing third in the weight throw with a toss of 61-feet-5 inches. Croney won the weight throw title in 2012 and is one of three throwers in WKU history to eclipse the 60-foot clip in the weight.
A pair of in-state freshman came through on the big stage for WKU at the championships as Warren Central High School product Donovan Halsel captured runner-up honors in the high jump while Erlanger, Ky. native Lindsey Hinken posted a third-place finish in the 5,000-meter run and finished fifth in the 3,000-meter run.
Halsel cleared 6-feet-10 ¾ inches to tie the championship-winning mark, the highest WKU jump since 1977. Hinken earned the second all-Sun Belt Conference honor of her young career with Monday's third-place showing. She was also named all-conference at the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Cross Country Championships.
Junior Marcus Winstead of Owensboro, Ky. recorded the second-fastest 400-meter dash time in WKU history at the championships, blazing in at 46.85 seconds to place fourth. Winstead nabbed all-conference honors in 2012 with a second-place finish in the 400-meter dash.
Smith and Winstead will journey to South Bend, Ind. this weekend, aiming to strengthen consideration for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Last Chance Meet hosted by the University of Notre Dame.