Northwest Missouri State is one of 12 schools that begins competition today at the MIAA Outdoor Championships in Hays, Kan.
The three-day meet, which includes more teams than ever, runs through Sunday afternoon.
Northwest's men finished eighth out of nine teams last year, while the women were sixth out of nine but graduated top point scorer Kate Walter.
Pittsburg State is the defending men's champion and Lincoln is the reigning women's champion.
Northwest's two teams contain five individuals projected to garner All-MIAA honors with a top three finish.
At the top of that list is sophomore Anne Herbert.
She owns the top time in the 3000M steeplechase of 11:15.23. Hebert finished fifth last year and is seeking to become the second straight women's steeplechase champion from Northwest. Last year's winner was All-American Brittany Poole.
Junior Ashton Nibert is seeded second in the 400M dash with a time of 54.56 run at the K.T. Woodman Classic.
She is one of four provisional qualifiers in the field. The only sprinter ranked ahead of her is automatic qualifier Donna-Lee Hylton, a junior from Lincoln, who ran a 52.96 at the KU Relays.
The Bearcats have the third-ranked runner in the men's 400M dash, sophomore Eli Smith. The Troy, Kan. product clocked a time of 48.13 in the Kip Janvrin Open that puts him behind only Michael Ashley from Lincoln and William Shell of Southwest Baptist.
Smith finished fifth in the 400M dash last year as a freshman.
Two other Bearcats seeded third are seniors John Petroff (discus) and Jordan Esry (5000M run).
Petroff earned provisional qualifier status in the discus with a throw of 175-2 at the Northwest Open. He finished fifth in the MIAA last year.
Seeded ahead of him are Pittsburg State's John Talbert (186-8) and Missouri Southern's Dustin Green (180-2).
Esry ran her season-best time of 17:54.97 at the MU Relays in Columbia Mar. 22. She is going after her first career All-MIAA finish.
Karen Grauel of Truman State and Hannah DeVries from Pittsburg are the top two seeds.
Provisional qualifier Chloe Wichman is ranked fourth in the Heptathlon with 4,636 points. She trails three Central Missouri athletes led by Zoe Sharplin.
Northwest has two of the top five ranked 110M hurdlers in the conference, but one of those—senior Tyler Shaw—won't compete after signing recently with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals. That leaves senior Travis Manning as the team's main contender.
He is ranked fifth with a provisional qualifying time of 14.21. Last year, Manning finished seventh at the MIAA Championships.
Porter Groves, who finished third in the triple jump last year, is only ranked eighth with a distance of 47-4.25.
Page 2 of 2 - In the women's pole vault, senior Megan Elder is ranked eighth with a height of 11-6.25.