Flurry of medals, records not enough for women to capture title

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NSU women's track and field team poses with runner-up trophy Monday at the Southland Conference Indoors Championships. CREDIT: Mike Wade Photography

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Northwestern State coach Mike Heimerman predicted the women’s Southland Conference Indoors Championship team title would come down to the 4×400 relay, and the Lady Demons needed to make up six points on Abilene Christian in that final event Monday.

 

The Lady Demons foursome of Diana Granados, Janiel Moore, Erin Wilson and Alexus Harris sped to a gold medal, crushing the field by more than three seconds (3:47.10), which is the ninth-fastest time in NSU indoor history.

 

But ACU’s relay team slammed the door on NSU’s team title hopes with a second-place relay showing as the Wildcats held on for the team championship, 107-103. The Wildcats relay entered the event seeded seventh.

 

The Lady Demons extended their streak of top-three finishes at SLC indoor and outdoor championships to nine, but a shot at the program’s first team title will have to wait for outdoors.

 

“The relay did exactly what they wanted to do, and they won in convincing fashion,” said NSU head coach Mike Heimerman. “But overall, to come so close again, it stings and it’ll sting for awhile.

 

“I’m so proud of these teams for overcoming COVID-19, testing, contact tracing, hurricanes, ice, injuries and everything that goes with it, but it hurts because you want it so bad for these girls. We’re still young, and we’re headed in the right direction.”

 

The NSU women traded the lead with ACU and Stephen F. Austin multiple times throughout the second day as the Lady Demons captured six medals, including three golds.

 

The men scored all 35 points on the second day with three medals and one gold, finishing ninth in the team standings.

 

The women’s second-day scoring started early as Janiel Moore blazed through the 60 meter hurdles at 8.53. On top of Moore’s 10 points, NSU picked up an additional three from Aliyah Carswell, who finished sixth with a career best of 9.08.

 

“Janiel took off in the hurdles, and it was her race,” Heimerman said. “She ran a great leg of the 4×400 too.

 

“I know she wanted to qualify in the sprints (Sunday), but she came out today and ran well.”

 

NSU’s sprints delivered throughout the day as the Lady Demons podiumed two 60 meters runners, and one in the 200 meters.

 

In the 60, Lynell Washington (7.49) turned on the gas in the final 20 meters to edge ACU’s Taylor Tolen. NSU’s Aarika Lister snatched third with a season-best 7.56.

 

Washington’s time is the third-fastest in NSU history, nearly besting her own program mark (7.44) set this past season.

 

“Lynell dominated in the 60, and she ran a good 200 considering she’s been banged up and not able to do long sprints,” Heimerman said. “Aarika had a great day, too, and she’s been hurt to the point where we didn’t know if she was going to run in warmups Saturday.”

 

Jayla Fields reaches the podium for the second straight day with a bronze in the 200 meters. Her 24.68 is a season-best, leading a cadre of three Lady Demon scorers as Lister (24.71) and Washington (24.92) finish fifth and seventh, respectively. Fields took silver in the long jump Sunday.

 

“We’re looking forward to what Jayla can do in outdoors. She just keeps getting better and better,” Heimerman said.

 

In the 400 meters, Granados scored for a second straight SLC Indoors as she captured fourth with a 56.90. Granados led her finals heat until the final tape, just missing the podium. Harris took seventh with a 58.01.

 

“Diana ran really, really well and should have been on the podium in the 400, and then Alexus Harris qualified with such a fast time and still ran a good race today,” Heimerman said.

 

Lauren-Ashley Clarke medaled twice Monday, including breaking NSU’s triple jump indoor record with a 43-1.5, knocking knocking Lady Demon great Stephanie Sowell from that perch by half an inch.

 

Clarke revisited the podium in the high jump, clearing a personal record 5-9.85. She cleared the bar on her final attempt, claiming the second-best mark in NSU indoor history.

 

“Setting a school record in the triple jump is huge, especially when you consider it’s just the second meet for a lot of these kids this season,” Heimerman said. “We’ve got tough kids.

 

Freshman Brianna Washington delivered a point in the shot put with her eighth-place throw of 44-6.25.

 

Highlighting the men’s second day was Kie’Ave Harry coasting to a 60 meters gold with a personal record 6.68, which ranks fourth all-time among NSU performers.

 

Harry started quickly and built an insurmountable lead en route to gold. Tre’Darius Carr added to the scoring with a seventh-place finish at 6.98.

 

“Kie’Ave had a great start and he accelerated well,” Heimerman said. “He was so far ahead that he started shutting it down a little early, and that might have cost him a spot at the NCAA nationals.

 

“But he decided he was going to come out here and win today, and he dominated. Both Kie’Ave and Tre’Darius have been banged up, but they did a good job of salvaging this indoor season given all the injuries. Tre’Darius probably shouldn’t have run, but he wanted to come out and score for this team, and he got on the board.”

 

Destine Scott garnered two top-four finishes, including a 200 meters siver with a 21.21, which makes him the fourth fastest performer in NSU indoor history.

 

Scott won his 400 meters finals heat with a season-best 47.56, placing fourth.

 

“Destine is a brute, and he just keeps getting better and better,” Heimerman said. “We didn’t have enough guys in different events this year, but I know we’ll focus on bouncing back in outdoors.”

 

The Coffeyville Community College transfer ran the anchor leg on a bronze medal 4×400 relay, which clocked a 3:13.74, which is seventh-best in NSU indoor history.

 

“Destine is a brute, and he just keeps getting better and better,” Heimerman said. “We didn’t have enough guys in different events this year, but I know we’ll focus on bouncing back in outdoors.”