LUBBOCK — The stage was set.
Trailing Barton County by two points with a single race remaining, the top-ranked South Plains College men's track and field team controlled its own destiny. With the South Plains College faithful packed into the Texas Tech Sports Performance Center chanting "SPC", the Texans didn't disappoint.
Running as the anchor for the orange and blue in the men's 4X400 relay, Montel Hood barreled down the final stretch in front of a ruckus crowd as the Texans finished second with a 3:09.56, two spots ahead of Barton to take a 94-92 lead in the final standings as they captured the 2018 NJCAA Men's Indoor National Championship, their sixth indoor title in program history and first since 2015.
"I knew Barton was on my tail and had to keep pushing," Hood said. "I like to make my move in the final half of the race, so I kicked at the halfway mark and was able to pass him smoothly. All you feel at that moment is jitters going through your body, but we all pulled together and made it happen. Every time we step on the track we give it everything we have, and it paid off for us today."
Points were at a premium on Saturday as the Texans made a late push to put themselves in contention at meet's end.
The Texans' 4x800 relay team comprised of Felix Kosgei, Ulises Cardoza, Ian Gonzales and Dekaryea Freeman began the afternoon with a third-place finish with a time of 7:44.17, tallying five points for South Plains. William Watson and Mason Weh combined to pick up nine points in the men's 60-meter hurdles with a three-four finish. Watson placed third with a time of 7.88, with Weh taking fourth with a 7.91.
South Plains garnered 10 points in the men's heptathlon as freshman Asani Hylton placed third with 5326 points and sophomore Patrick Johnson took fifth with 5058 points. Freshman Holland Martin would then earn national champion honors and set a new personal best in the men's triple jump as he soared 52' 8.25" on his fourth attempt to claim national gold and pick up 10 more points for South Plains. Freshman Keion Sutton added six more points for the Texans in the men's 60-meter dash as he placed third overall with a time of 6.73.
"When you win by two points, everyone plays a part," South Plains head coach Erik Vance said. "It doesn't matter who it is whether it's an eighth place or a first place finish. I think the event that really turned the corner for us was Holland Martin in the triple jump. He was able to step up and pick up some huge points that proved to be crucial in the end."
Hood would add five more points in the men's 600 meters with a fourth place overall finish with his time of 1:18.14. Sophomore Junior Charles would tack on six more points for the Texans in the men's 400 meters with a time of 46.57. Freeman added six points in the men's 800 meters with a third-place finish with a time of 1:55.75, setting South Plains up for a chance at gold in the final race.
"These kids work hard every single day and push themselves to try to and simulate meet scenarios," Vance said. "Most of these guys haven't been in a meet like this before, and they all did an outstanding job and this was a total team effort. We talked to both teams last night and told them, if it came down to the 4X400, we would win it."
The Lady Texans earned national runner-up honors on Saturday with 90 points, as New Mexico Junior College placed first with 120 points. Iowa Central placed third, followed by Barton County and Central Arizona.
Freshman Ruth Usoro got things rolling for the Lady Texans as she set a new school record and earned national champion honors in the women's triple jump, soaring 42' 8.25" on her fifth attempt. The Lady Texans picked up five points in the women's 60-meter hurdles as freshman Patrice Moody placed fourth overall with a time of 8.68.
Janiel Moore added four more points for South Plains in the women's 600 meters, as the freshman placed fifth with a final time of 1:35.13. The sophomore duo of Seselia Dala and Leslie Romero continued on their tear in the women's mile run as they combined to pick up nine points for the Lady Texans. Dala placed third with a time of 5:13.89, and Romero took sixth with a time of 5:16.26.
Sophomores Natassha McDonald and Agnes Abrocquah tacked on five points in the women's 400 meters with a six-seven finish for the Lady Texans. McDonald placed sixth with a time of 55.40, as Abrocquah took seventh with a 55.59. The Lady Texans would cap off the meet with a second place finish in the women's 4x400 as Ashley Hughes, Moody, Abrocquah, and McDonald combined to run a 3:43.30 to take second overall.
"This women's team laid everything on the line," Vance said. "This is a small squad and they did an outstanding job. I can't talk enough about the effort they put out. They came in as the fourth-ranked team, and at the end of the day we wanted a trophy, and to be in the lead for that long against an outstanding New Mexico team that just had more bodies than us, I couldn't be any happier with this group."
Day one recap:
Sophomore Bisiboro Mosongo placed fifth overall in the women's pentathlon and set a new personal best with 3011 points after placing inside the top five in two events. Bosiboro placed second in the high jump with a final clearance of 5' 3.75", and earned a fourth-place finish in the shot put with a throw of 32' 11.75". Freshman Jelena Rowe tallied eight points for the Lady Texans in the women's high jump as she placed second overall with a mark of 5' 11.25".
Sophomore Seselia Dala was crowned national champion and picked up 10 points for the Lady Texans in the women's 5000 meters as the sophomore from Amarillo posted a final time of 18:04.39, nearly nine seconds ahead of second place finisher Winrose Chesang from Iowa Central. Sophomore Leslie Romero tallied six more points for South Plains in the 5000 meters with a third place overall finish with her time of 18:19.07.
Romero added five more points for the Lady Texans in the women's 3000 meters with a fourth place overall finish with a final time of 10:32.19. Freshman Ruth Usoro earned eight more points for South Plains with a second place finish in the women's long jump, soaring 19' 4.25" on her first attempt. Sophomore Cha'Kaylin Gilbert garnered six points for the orange and blue with her third-place finish with a mark of 19' 2" in the women's long jump.
South Plains' freshman Asani Hylton leads all competitors in the men's heptathlon with 3150 points after four events, including a pair of first-place finishes on Friday. Hylton placed first in the long jump after soaring 23. 3.5". Hylton would follow up with a first-place finish in the high jump with a mark of 6' 8.25".
Also competing for South Plains in the men's heptathlon is sophomore Patrick Johnson who is currently in sixth with 2841 points. Johnson placed fourth overall in the shot put thanks to a throw of 40' 8.25". Johnson would then place fifth in the long jump with a final mark of 22' 2.5".
Freshman Holland Martin picked up six points in the men's long jump thanks to a third place overall finish, soaring 24' 1.75" on his fourth attempt. The Texans added six more points in the men's 5000 meters as freshman Andrew Bosquez placed third overall with a time of 15:08.01. Kosgei and Bosquez would each place inside the top five in the men's 3000 meters as Kosgei picked up six points for the Texans thanks to a third-place finish with a final time of 8:37.51. Bosquez would rack up four more points in the 3000 as he placed fifth overall with a time of 8:38.46.