Tough road to success for Bennett

Injury didn’t prevent a trip to this weekend’s national finals.
Friday, March 12, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:31 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jennifer Bennett has squashed the injury bug.

Bennett, a senior Missouri pole vaulter, will compete in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships today and Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark.

Bennett’s road to the championships was not an easy one. She overcame an early season rotator cuff tear in her left shoulder, which kept her out of competition for about a month, to qualify for her third consecutive trip to an NCAA championship event.

“Right before we started competing, I strained a rotator cuff muscle, and that kept me out for a while,” she said. “It was my left, but there’s been a few other things that have been bothering me, like it’s kind of been a constant battle of trying to stay healthy.”

Assistant coach Dan Lefever, who specializes in the pole vault, helped Bennett work through her injury.

“We worked a lot, but we were kind of limited in what we could do, to some extent,” he said. “Earlier, with her shoulder injury, we were able to do a lot of running and approach work, we just couldn’t do any vaulting. So we were able to stay consistent with that stuff.”

Bennett’s vault of 13 feet, 3 ½ inches makes her the 14th seed. Last year, Bennett earned All-American honors with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships, but she said this year she is happy to compete after beating the injury.

“You know what, I’m just going to go and enjoy myself,” she said. “The way things have been going right now, anything would be good. Anything.”

Ashley Patten, a sophomore, will compete in the 800-meter run.

Patten has finished the year strong. She won the 800 at the Big 12 Conference Indoor Championships two weeks ago to earn her third All-Big 12 honor.

One week ago, she followed her conference title with a time of 2 minutes, 5.97 seconds at the Cyclone National Track and Field Qualifier.

The time puts her second on MU’s 800 indoor list. Her time was good enough to rank her 10th in the nation.

Patten said that she looks to continue to meet her goals at the NCAA meet.

“Everyone has goals, and my first goal was this past weekend to qualify for the meet,” she said.

Patten said that she looks forward to getting the chance to win another title.

“Now, you know, I would just love to make the final,” she said. “If that happens there’s no telling what the next little goal will be.”

Conrad Woolsey, a junior shot putter, fills out the rest of the Tigers’ championship roster. Woolsey’s throw of 62-1/4 places him third on MU’s list.

Woolsey competed at Northwest Missouri State University from 2001-02, where he earned NCAA Division II All-American honors four times, including after winning the indoor national title in 2001.

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