Tuesday, July 23, 2024

College track and field: NSU women win first Southland Outdoor championship

by Russell Hedges
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By Jonathan Zenk, Northwestern State Assistant Director of Communications

HOUSTON—How sweep it is.

For the first time in Northwestern State women’s track and field program history, it took home the outdoor team title, thanks to the team’s bread and butter.

Down by a half a point to rival McNeese with one event remaining, NSU relied on its signature event—the 4×400 relay—to take home the title, similar to what happened to win the 2023 indoor title.

While that team did not actually win the relay to clinch the team title, this one did. From the opening leg ran by Maygan Shaw to the last leg from Sanaria Butler, NSU was in control.

Once Butler crossed the finish line, NSU knew they had it—and it was needed since McNeese came in second place. The 3:35.84 narrowly missed the meet record that NSU set just last season.

The two points the Demons won by emerging victorious in the 4×400 was the difference, winning a tight race 182.5-181.

“We left a lot of points on the table last year, so there was some unfinished business, head coach Mike Heimerman said. “While we didn’t have a perfect weekend, they wanted it and went out and got it, which is a huge testament to their will and fortitude.

“While we don’t have a huge group of seniors, the younger ones wanted to send them out on a high note because we had never won a women’s outdoor team title. We finished second quite a few times and we really wanted to get that monkey off our back. I give credit to the hard work they put in and do whatever you ask them to do.”

What makes the feat of them winning the relay even more impressive is that Shaw, Butler and Vanessa Balde competed in multiple events prior to the 4×400.

Those three dominated the 400-meter dash earlier in the day to sweep the podium, led by Butler’s meet record 52.56 to capture the gold.

Shaw (52.85) and (53.40) rounded out the podium, grabbing silver and bronze.

Those same three came in second, third and fourth in the 200-meter dash, once again led by Butler, who clocked a 23.48.

The only one who could beat out Butler was a meet record time from Lamar’s Brianna Howard (23.01).

Shaw earned the bronze with a time of 23.67 and Balde narrowly missed out on the podium, running a 23.69.

Balde had her turn to win individual gold in the 100-meter hurdles, as the sophomore clocked a 13.63.

Shakera Kirk started off the day right for the women, earning the gold in the women’s discus. She saved her best throw for last. Despite having wrapped up the title, Kirk tossed a personal-best 167-3 to put an exclamation point on the victory, which she dominated by four meters.

Tahisha Thompson also racked up points in the discus, throwing a personal-best 150-2 to grab fourth place.

For the second consecutive season, the men earned second place, falling to UIW by six points.

In the men’s discus, the Demons earned the top two spots and four of the top six.

Diamante Gumbs (184-7) led the charge with his second consecutive gold medal in the event. He beat out his brother Djimon Gumbs, who earned the silver with a throw of 178-10.

Tarajh Hudson just missed the podium, finishing in fourth with a throw of 172-8. Freshman Seth Smith came through with a sixth-place finish, throwing a 161-5.

Also earning a gold for the men was the 4×100 relay team, which kicked off the running events for the guys.

The team of Zachaeus Beard, Cyrus Jacobs, Keontae Gaines and Mikkel Johansson ran a 39.42, holding off a furious rally from Texas A&M-Commerce and New Orleans.

Jacobs had a strong day for the men, earning the silver in the 400-meter dash and bronze in the 200-meter dash, running a 46.78 and 20.97, respectively.

He also pushed NSU as the last leg of the men’s 4×400 relay to earn the silver medal, as the quartet of Jacobs, Beard, Desmond Duncan and Jaysaun Smith ran a 3:08.27.

In the 200, Jacobs was joined on the podium by Beard, who ran a 20.48 to capture the silver.

Beard also added another silver to his collection, clocking a wind-legal personal best of 10.19. He was joined on the medal stand by Gaines, who ran a 10.42 to earn the bronze.

Taj Morris collected the bronze in the 110-meter hurdles in a close race, finishing with a time of 14.16, just ahead of the 14.17 ran by Texas A&M-Commerce’s Jordan Johnson.

In the women’s 100-meter dash, Victoria Byrd came in fourth with a time of 11.82.

Robert Norton earned the Demons two points in the 400-meter hurdles, clocking a 55.12.

In the jumps, NSU earned more medals.

In the women’s triple jump, Jaslyn Smith was locked in a back-and-forth affair with McNeese’s Morgan Talley.

With a fifth jump of 41-5.75, Talley took the gold, but Smith made her work for it, as she earned the silver with a distance of 41-3.75.

Butler also earned points in the triple jump, placing fifth with a 39-11.25.

Both Andrew Gilreath (men’s triple jump) and Randy Kelly (men’s high jump) claimed bronze medals.

In a back-and-forth affair, Gilreath led after the first group of three jumps with a 49-1.25, but impressive jumps knocked him down to third

Kelly cleared 6-9 to earn third, narrowly edging out Lamar’s Elijah Jackson.

Djimon Gumbs wrapped up his outdoor meet with a fourth-place finish in the javelin after not participating in the event all year.

He was followed by an impressive performance from NSU freshman Joseph Yount, who tossed a 176-5.

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