Demons track and field head coach Mike Heimerman made one final media interview Tuesday before leading his team to the NCAA East Preliminary Round Track and Field Championships in Jacksonville, Fla. scheduled for May 29-31.
“It’s a great feeling,” Heimerman said. “We have a good group here and it’s fun. Other than conference, this is what we worked for all year. To have as many kids to qualify in more events, it’s nice. It gives us a big footprint when we recruit and it shows to the hard work of these kids.”
One of the athletes expected to do well is senior sprinter Justin Walker, who has recorded the fastest 100 meters time of any collegiate athlete this season after blazing to a time of 9.95 seconds in the Southland Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships May 9-11.
Walker, who also competing in the men’s 200 meters and in the 4x100 meter relay, is ready to make it back once again to the NCAA’s biggest track meet.
“In order to go to Nationals, it’s going to take some focus and hard work,” Walker said. “We already put in all the work, so it’s going to be executed in practice and we just have to do what we have to do when we get there.”
Competing with Walker in the 4x100 relays will be freshman Shakeir Ryan, junior Keenan Jackson and freshman anchor Ty Shilling.
Ryan, who plays for the Demons’ football team and joined the track and field team April 26 during the Leon Johnson NSU Invitational, helped the team earn a No. 13 seed with a time of 39.89 seconds in the Southland Championships.
“It feels amazing,” Ryan said. “By the grace of God, I was able to come out here straight from football and still compete. I’ve been training for the last three weeks and I’ll be better at this track meet than I was at the last one.”
On the women’s side, senior Consuela Lindsey is seeded No. 15 in the 400-meter hurdles and is looking to break through with a chance at Nationals.
Lindsey made it to the East Regionals as a sophomore in 2012---finishing 24th with a time of 1:01.01.
“I feel like I set myself up this year to be where I’m at right now,” Lindsey said. “It’s going to take me to run a smooth race, my race, and not worry about the other runners. I just want to end my last season with a bang.”
Sophomore Rechelle Bessard will be participating in the hammer and discus throws as she returns to the East Regionals.
“I’m really blessed to be going,” Bessard said. “I’m trying to set a personal record in both events. My goal in the hammer is 190 feet and my goal in the discus is around 180 feet.”
Last season, five Demon track athletes qualified for Nationals and Heimerman is hoping that this group can continue the tradition.
“Coach [Leon] Johnson set us up pretty well on the men’s side with the athletes that we have returning who are fast,” Heimerman said. “We do walk around with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder because we’re a small school from a small conference.”
The top 12 individuals and the top nine relay teams in each regional meet will compete for the NCAA Outdoor Championships June 11-14 in Eugene, Ore.