LEVELLAND — Championship weekend.
The South Plains College men's and women's track and field teams will look to recreate the magic from nationals a year ago as they travel to Pittsburg, Kansas March 1-2 for the 2019 NJCAA Indoor Track and Field National Championships at the Robert W. Plaster Center.
Ranked No. 5 in the latest USTFCCCA national poll, the Texans enter the meet as the defending national champions after capturing the 2018 indoor national crown in Lubbock. Earning a No. 6 national ranking in the latest poll, the Lady Texans finished second a year ago and will look to a group of freshman long-distance runners and several key returners from last year's squad to put them in contention come Saturday.
"In our meetings this week we talked about what we think we have the ability to do both individually and as a team," South Plains head coach Erik Vance said. "Both groups seem to embrace the fact that we can go do some big things individually which results in a good outcome for the entire team. This is about our men's and women's teams coming together and pushing each other towards success. I think they really embraced that and will do so even more once we get to the national meet and start competing."
The Texans qualified 34 athletes throughout the regular season including 15 marks which rank in the top 10 in the NJCAA. Sophomore Asani Hylton recorded the top point total in the heptathlon at the Charlie Thomas Invitational with 5136 points, and also posted the second-best mark in the high jump when he cleared 6' 11" in Lubbock on Jan. 18.
Sophomore Bryson Deberry also proved to be on the high jumpers in the country, posting the third-best mark when he cleared 6' 10.75" in College Station. Freshman Rylan Olguin posted the top mark in the pole vault at the Tyson Invitational, clearing 16' 0" and setting a new personal best.
"We have several events that we need to do well in, but if you look at last year's team, the seventh and eighth place individual finishes made the difference," Vance said. "So in our case, any event that we have someone entered is going to matter. I would say the most important thing is qualifying people for the finals because you can't score if you don't make the finals. That's really what we're looking for, and if you hit the marks you hit to get to the meet, you're going to have a pretty good outcome. The more people we have running and competing on Saturday, the better chance we have to win."
The Lady Texans posted 21 national qualifying marks this season, including four of the top marks in the NJCAA. Freshman Gladys Jemaiyo set a national record on Feb. 1 in College Station in the women's 5000 meters, posting a blistering time of 16:51.52. Jemaiyo also posted the top time in the women's 3000 meters at the Charlie Thomas Invitational, running a 9:54.13.
Dorcus Ewoi, a freshman from Kenya turned in the top time in the women's mile run on Feb. 8 in Arkansas, clocking a 5:02.31. The Lady Texans' distance medley relay team comprised of Jemaiyo, Ewoi, Itzel Garcia-Santos, and Janiel Moore also ran the fastest time in the country in Fayetteville, clocking a 12:19.70.
"Our kids tend to rise to the level of their competition, and the nice thing about track and field is its not just one team, and there's always going to be someone who is on their game come nationals," Vance said. "Whether that's a team competing for a national title or a team that only has four or five individuals, there's going to be somebody there that is ready to go and is prepared for the meet. Our main goal is to beat whoever is out there. if you're able to do that, you're going to have a pretty good meet."
Schedule of events: https://d2o2figo6ddd0g.cloudfront.net/m/q/b55iivgiapp8kz/Schedule_of_Events.pdf
Per the NJCAA website: The 2019 NJCAA Indoor National Championships will be broadcast live from Pittsburg, Kansas on Friday and Saturday, March 1-2 via FlotrackPro. The broadcast will require a Flotrack Pro subscription.
2019 South Plains College Track & Field Indoor National Championships Hype Video