Special to the Register
For the second consecutive year, Eastern Kentucky University senior Soufiane Bouchikhi has been voted the Ohio Valley Conference Male Indoor Track Athlete of the Year, the league office announced on Thursday.
EKU freshmen Mads Taersboel and Viivi Rantanen were also voted the OVC Male and Female Indoor Freshmen of the Year.
Bouchikhi, a First-Team All-American in the outdoor 10,000 meters and a second team All-American in the indoor and outdoor 5,000 meters, was named the OVC Male Track Athlete of the Week three times this winter.
The native of Antwerp, Belgium posted OVC-best times in the 3,000 meters (7:57.93) and 5,000 meters (13:48.47) two weekends ago at the Washington Husky Invitational in Seattle, and he ran the third-fastest mile time (4:06.66) in the conference at the Rod McCravy Memorial Meet on Jan. 25. Bouchikhi’s 3,000 meters time is currently ranked 22nd in the country, while his 5,000 meters time is ranked 16th in the country. He hopes to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships for the second-straight year in one or both of those events.
Bouchikhi is one of four EKU runners to earn OVC Male Indoor Track Athlete of the Year honors, joining Larry White (1984), John Nganga (1995) and Steve Maina (2003).
Taersboel exploded on the scene when he ran an OVC-best 4:05.31 in the mile at the Rod McCravy Memorial Meet in late January. That time, which is the fifth-fastest in school history, earned him OVC Male Track Athlete of the Week honors.
Taersboel, a native of Slagelse, Denmark, was injured during the early portion of the cross country season, but came on strong at the end, earning First-Team All-OVC honors and competing for EKU at the NCAA Championships in Louisville.
Taersboel is the fourth Colonel to earn OVC Male Indoor Freshman of the Year honors, joining Jacob Korir (2005), Elkana Kurgat (2007) and Bouchikhi (2010).
Rantanen posted the third-fastest 3,000 meters (9:56.07) time in the OVC at the Indiana Hoosier Hills Open on Feb. 8 and the sixth-fastest mile time at the Middle Tennessee State Invitational on Feb. 2. Both are the fastest times by a freshman in the conference so far this winter.
The native of Pusula, Finland was a first team All-OVC performer for the conference champion EKU women’s cross country team in the fall.
Rantanen is the second Colonel to be named OVC Female Indoor Freshman of the Year, joining Picoty Leitich (2010).
Other winners include Austin Peay’s Chantelle Grey (Female Track Athlete), Eastern Illinois’ Jade Riedbold (Female Field Athlete) and Southeast Missouri’s Reggie Miller, Jr. (Male Field Athlete).
Bouchikhi, Taersboel, Rantanen and the rest of the EKU track and field team compete at the OVC Indoor Championships in Charleston, Ill. this weekend.
EKU tops Lindsey Wilson
The Eastern Kentucky University men’s tennis team improved to 4-1 in home indoor matches this winter with a 5-2 victory over Lindsey Wilson Thursday in Richmond.
The Blue Raiders entered the match ranked fourth nationally at the NAIA level.
Lindsey Wilson opened the match by taking the doubles points thanks to an 8-6 win by Fernando Bogajo and Pablo Vilches at No. 3 doubles.
EKU rallied in singles, but faced numerous tough matches. Lindsey Wilson’s top three singles players are all ranked among the top-40 NAIA players in the nation. Junior Joao Maio clinched the team win with a 6-4, 6-2 decision at No. 5 singles.
“That was our best win of the year so far,” EKU coach Rob Oertel said. “We were fortunate to catch this team early in its schedule because they have plenty of quality players. Our players have made great strides in their confidence and court demeanor. However, we still need to continue to focus on and improve in this area.”
The Colonels are right back in action Saturday with another home indoor match against Pikeville. Match time is set for 4 p.m.
OVC releases preseason golf polls
The Eastern Kentucky University men’s golf team was picked to place fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference this spring.
EKU’s women’s team was picked to finish sixth.
On the men’s side, the Colonels earned 66 points, one more than fifth-place Belmont and 15 fewer than third-place Murray State. Jacksonville State (95) was picked to win the conference. The Gamecocks received eight first place votes. Austin Peay (91) earned three first place votes and was picked second.
Eleven schools participate in men’s golf.
On the women’s side, EKU accumulated 44 points, six more than seventh-place Tennessee Tech (38) and two less than fifth-place Austin Peay (46). With eight first-place votes, Morehead State was chosen as the favorite to win the conference. Jacksonville State (72) was second, followed by Murray State (67) in third. Belmont (52) was fourth.
Ten OVC members field women’s golf teams.
EKU’s men’s team opens the spring portion of its schedule on March 4 at the Samford Invitational. The women’s squad begins play on Monday at the South Alabama Women’s Invitational.