Track & Field — Northwestern State women positioned for title fight after three podiums, nine sprinters to finals

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NSU senior Kristin McDuffie took silver in the weight throw Sunday at the SLC Indoor Championships. CREDIT: Mike Wade Photography

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – After three podium finishes and advancing a whopping nine sprinters and hurdlers into event finals Sunday, the Northwestern State women’s track team is positioned to compete for a team title at the Southland Conference Indoor Championships.

The Lady Demons sit in second place with 28 points, trailing leader Abilene Christian (30 points) and positioned ahead of Stephen F. Austin (24 points) heading into Monday’s finals.

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The field events start at 10 a.m. with running events at 11 a.m.

“We control our own destiny, and it’s going to be a dog fight with a couple of the other schools,” said NSU head coach Mike Heimerman, who has guided the women to a top-three finish in the last eight conference indoor and outdoor championships. “Overall we did a good job.

“We missed a few spots with the women, but that’s going to happen.”

The men didn’t score on Day 1 but did advance five sprinters to the finals.

Pole vaulter Annemarie Broussard captured gold with a 12-11.75, which is a foot higher than her season best.

Broussard didn’t miss a height until 13-3, but SFA’s Riley Floerke missed once at 12-11.75 and passed to 13-3, where she missed two more times.

NSU had five vaulters in the event, and Parish Kitto scored one point by finishing in a tie for seventh with an 11-4.25. Freshmen Madison Brown and Karlyn Trahan also cleared 11-4.25 but with more misses, placing 10th and 11th.

Jayla Fields appeared to be headed toward a gold of her own in the long jump, leading the pack for most of the event with a new career best of 19-1.5.

But on the final jump, Nicholls’ Chelsea Harrington ripped off a 19-4.75 to take gold.

Lauren-Ashley Clarke added to the NSU scoring in her first collegiate long jump event, placing eighth with an 18-5.25.

“Jayla did what we wanted plus a little bit. As a sprinter, she doesn’t work a ton on her long jump form, so we’re very pleased with her,” Heimerman said. “Lauren has never long jumped in her life, and she looked like a baby giraffe coming down the runway because she’s use to triple jumping.

“She did this for the team, and it’s great for her to go out and score. With her competing in the high jump and the triple jump (Monday), I think she has a shot to be the high scorer at the meet.”

NSU sophomore Jayla Fields took silver in the long jump Sunday at the SLC Indoor Championships. CREDIT: Mike Wade Photography

In her final indoors championship, Kristin McDuffie found herself in the middle of the leaderboard after four attempts. But the senior exploded for a career best 57-10.25 en route to silver in the weight throw.

She topped her previous career mark by more than a foot and ranked her fifth on NSU’s all-time weight throw performers.

“She was ranked second coming in, but she had just one meet since she was in COVID-19 protocol and the ice storm,” Heimerman said. “She practiced very well but was super, super nervous early on.

“Kristin got it going though. She still hit a (personal record), but honestly she can throw further.”

Three Lady Demons will saturate the 200 meter finals as Fields (24.78, second), Lynell Washington (24.85, fourth) and Aarika Lister (25.00, seventh) advance. Washington competed for the first time as a collegian in the 200.

Washington and Lister will also appear in the 60 meter finals, finishing second and third overall with a 7.54 and a 7.64, respectively.

The women also placed two runners each in the 60 hurdles and the 400 meters.

Janiel Moore, who almost qualified in multiple sprints, is ranked second in the 60 hurdles after an 8.65. Aliyah Carswell ran a career best 9.00 to finish eighth.

Freshman Alexus Harris shined in her first championships, blasting her 400 meters personal record (57.06) by nearly .75 seconds. Senior Diana Granados finishes fourth in her first 400 race this season.

Twin sister Portia Harris also clocked a personal record in the 800 meters with a 2:26.09, although neither her nor Olivia Sipes made the final.

“(Associate head coach Adam Pennington) does a phenomenal job, and these girls buy in,” Heimerman said. “The first day is the most nervous day for running events because you have to make the finals.

“Alexus Harris had a really big personal record, and that’s very impressive. Janiel came through in the hurdles. With Lynell, she has hardly trained in the 200 because she’s been banged up and there’s been bad weather. It’s just guts and determination, and I wouldn’t take any other team into a fight like there’ll be (Monday) for a title. It’ll probably come down to the 4×400 relay, and we haven’t lost those in a while.”

The Lady Demons have never won a team title in program history – indoor or outdoor.

On the men’s side, five sprinters will compete for titles.

Kie’Ave Harry posted the fastest 60 meters time with a 6.80 in the prelims. The men entered with the top three fastest times this season, but just Tre’Darius Carr will join Harry after Carr placed eighth (6.95).

Destine Scott will run in two finals Monday after a career best in the 200 (21.42) and a season best in the 400 (48.26).

Kennedy Harrison will join Scott (21.48) in the 200 meters with a fifth-place finish, one spot behind Scott.

“Kie’Ave did what we expected him to do, and he’s in the driver’s seat in the 60 meters,” Heimerman said. “Destine had a very impressive day to make two finals. He’s a workhorse, and he loves it.

“Kennedy made the finals in the 200 and Carr had a decent in the 60.”

Long jumper Markeit Steverson just missed the second set of jumps after the defending SLC indoor champion finished 10th with a 22-5.25.