Charleston, IL – It’s Kenisha Phillips world and we all just live in it. The Austin Peay State University (APSU) sprint standout swept the 200 and 400-meter dashes on the final day of competition at the 2021 Ohio Valley Conference Outdoor Championships, hosted by Eastern Illinois at O’Brien Field.
In the post-meet honors, she also picked up OVC Female Freshman of the Year honors, bookending her 2020 indoor Freshman of the Year nod with another at the end of her first outdoor campaign as a Gov.
A banged-up Austin Peay State University squad fought valiantly through the weekend, earning every one of their 68 points en route to a sixth-place team finish. Southeast Missouri (148 points) won the team title, followed by Belmont (133) and Murray State (131).
“Words can’t describe how proud I am of this staff and team,” said APSU head coach Valerie Brown. “This championship was nothing short of execution in the events that we knew we had an opportunity to have success in.
“I thought every athlete we took to this meet gave it all they had. All year we talked about consistently and putting ourselves in a position to be successful. Everything fell into place at the right time for this group. The effort was what we needed and all I could ask for as a coach.”
The APSU Govs opened the day by picking up crucial points in the triple jump and shot put. Jessica Hoban’s personal-best 11.23-meter triple jump leap to snag eighth, while in the shot put pit both Kori McDaniel (third, personal-best 14.21 meters) and Jackie Verseman (seventh, 12.63 meters) put points on the board for Austin Peay State University.
McDaniel’s toss also served as the second-longest shot put throw in program history and made her the first Gov to reach the medal stand in a throwing event since Tanesha Campbell in 2012—Campbell’s 2012 toss also served as the last time a Gov broke 14 meters in the shot put.
To open the Austin Peay State University track efforts in the early afternoon, Lennex Walker picked up points in the 100-meter hurdle finals, posting a 14.46.
Then it was Phillips’ turn. In the 400-meter dash, the Georgetown, Guyana native flexed her distance muscles with a gold-earning 53.47 mark; less than two hours later she was back at it in the 200, and this time she shattered a school record to go along with gold in that event with a 23.35 mark.
She’s the first OVC competitor since Tennessee Tech’s Na’Asha Robinson in 2017 and 2018 to sweep the 200-400 combo during the outdoor season, and the first runner in Austin Peay State University history to take gold in both at the same outdoor OVC Championship meet.
Phillips also kept alive Austin Peay State University’s streak of Outdoor Freshman of the Year nods at three; she joins Morgan Bradley (2018) and Kyra Wilder (2019) in being named the preeminent outdoor student-athlete in the OVC.
In between Phillips’ golds, Mikaela Smith took an early lead in the 800-meter run and maintained it through three-quarters of the race. She left it all on the track, crossing the finish line completely spent but just off the podium with a fourth-place, 2:13.34 finish.
In the final event of the meet, APSU trotted out a quartet Phillips, Smith, Allana Johnson, and Rayven Thomasson; the Govs fought tooth-and-nail to the finish, roaring from behind early and desperately trying to fend off Murray State and Belmont late. The Govs succumbed to a furious Racer charge right at the finish line to take silver in the event and wrap up the 2021 team portion of the outdoor campaign.
“We had highlights in every event group,” Brown said. “We are really on to something moving forward. From Karlijn [Schouten] and Denia [Hill-Tate] in the jumps, Kenisha and Lennex in the sprints and hurdles, Miki in the middle distance, and Kori and Jackie in our throws, I’m excited for our future!
“From day one we talked about going into day two with some ‘fight’ in all that we did and sure enough they executed that plan well. While we lose some seniors next year, we return 95 percent of this team and that’s the exciting part of the future of this program.”
But that is unlikely to be all for the Govs this season. Both Phillips and Schouten are well within the top-48 regional mark needed to qualify for the 2021 NCAA East Preliminary in Jacksonville, Florida, May 26th-29th.