HUTCHINSON, Ka.—The South Plains College men's and women's track and field teams battled dreary weather and multiple weather delays on day two of the 2017 NJCAA Outdoor National Championships at Gowans Stadium on Friday.
Despite the conditions, both teams grinded out top finishes across the board and find themselves in prime contention for Saturday's championship finals.
"The conditions could not have been any more challenging throughout the day," South Plains head coach Erik Vance said. "We saw a little bit of everything and saw just about every season today. Our kids stepped up and did really well and we got some people moved into the finals. It doesn't matter where you came in ranked, everyone has a chance to get on the podium tomorrow."
Following cancellation on Thursday night, South Plains Seselia Dala took to the track Friday morning and ran a personal best 37:51.26 in the women's 10k, earning the freshman from Amarillo a bronze medal and third place finish. The Texans' Felix Kosgei followed up with a fourth-place finish in the men's 10k with a time of 31:42.15.
Laquan Nairn, who entered the meet ranked second in the country in the triple jump put the wet weather on the back burner and soared 49' 9.75" to a first place finish giving South Plains it's first national champion of the meet. Saahir Bethea joined Nairn on the winner's stand as the sophomore from Elkins Park, Pa. used a final mark of 48' 4.75" to take third overall.
"This is the first time I've been able to compete for South Plains College in a championship environment and I couldn't be more thankful for this opportunity," Nairn said. "This is my last time competing for coach Vance and the college, and I just wanted to go out there and jump far. Me and coach Vance, we had a plan. I wanted to go out with a bang and set an example for our team, and I thank God I was able to do that."
Kiona Bradshaw earned an eighth place finish in the women's shot put with a mark of 43' 9.25", followed by Felicia Frimpong's eighth place finish in the women's triple jump with her mark of 38' 0.25". In the men's 4x100 prelims, the Texans placed sixth as Rayan Holmes, Okeen Williams, Junior Charles and Jordan Atkinson crossed the line at 40.21. William Watson and Robert Dunning placed third and fifth in the men's 110 hurdles with times of 14.31 and 14.37, respectively.
Nicholas Rotich and Kosgei finished fifth and sixth in the men's 1500 prelims with their final times of 4:07.07 and 4:08.74, respectively. The Texans' 4x800 relay team comprised of Dekaryea Freeman, Robert Downs Jr., Omero Rodriguez and Rotich earned a bronze medal with their third place finish and final time of 7:40.88. Natassha McDonald used a 54.83 in the women's 400-meter prelims to take third, followed by fellow Lady Texan Agnes Abrocquah' ninth place finish and final time of 56.32.
In the women's 4x100 prelims, South Plains' Omotayo Abolaji, Mauricia Prieto, Taylor Hill and Safia Bright used a time of 46.41 to qualify seventh overall. The Lady Texans would earn a silver medal in the 4x800 relay as Poro Gahekave, Latriceia Smith, Hellen Maasotuo and Dala ran a 9:15.92. Patrick Johnson, who entered Friday in second in the men's decathlon used a 14.99 in the 110 hurdles to take second overall. Johnson then went on to place sixth in the discus with a mark of 104' 4", and 11th in the pole vault with a clearance of 10' 11.75".
South Plains closed out the day with the men's and women's 3000-meter steeplechase as Poro Gahekave earned a sixth place finish for the Lady Texans with a time of 11:38.11, followed by Nicholas Rotich' third place finish and final time of 9:26.02.
Due to a severe weather warning midway through the afternoon, five prelim running events were postponed until Saturday. Those events will be run as timed finals on Saturday, which include: men's and women's 100-meter dash, 800-meter run, 400 hurdles, 200-meter dash and the 4x400 meter relay. The remaining field events will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, with the final running events to start at 1 p.m.
The Texans will enter championship Saturday in second place with 32 team points, trailing only Iowa Central who has 42 points after two days. The Lady Texans currently sit in third place with 19 points, with New Mexico JC and Iowa Central claiming the top two positions with 36 and 28 team points.
"I really think our kids are in championship mode and will be ready to go tomorrow," Vance said. "I'm really excited for our opportunity to go out and try to win a couple tomorrow. If they go out and compete and do what they're capable of, there are not very many teams out there that can beat us."