The South Plains College track and field program has been a staple across the NJCAA landscape for their continued dominance that has remained consistent throughout the years, much in part due to the championship pedigree that surrounds the program.
The Texans and Lady Texans will look to add to that legacy this weekend when they travel to Pittsburg, Kansas for the 2017 NJCAA Indoor Track & Field National Championships on March 3-4 at the Robert W. Plaster Center on the campus of Pittsburg State University.
"I'm very pleased with our progression so far this year," South Plains head coach Erik Vance said. "We've advanced really well and our returners hit the ground running in August. They've been training well all year, and they've seen the results of that. Our newcomers have jumped right in and really competed. We put them in some situations that they were unfamiliar with or uncomfortable with, but they've adapted well to those and done well. I think what that has got us is a very balanced complete team."
The Texans enter the weekend ranked second in the country with 301.68 points. Iowa Central is ranked first with 492.41 points, with Cloud County, Butler and Barton Community College rounding at the top five of the current rankings. South Plains has compiled 41 national qualifying marks including multiple top 10 marks across the board.
The Texans posted the fastest 4x400 relay time at the Charlie Thomas Invitational on Feb. 3, crossing the finish line at the 3:10.11 mark. Laquan Nairn's mark of 25' 7.25" in the long jump at the Tyson Invitational is the top distance to date. Nairn also posted a 50' 5.5" mark in the triple jump at the Sooner Open which ranks third in the NJCAA. Robert Dunning posted the second fastest time in the 60 hurdles with a 7.92 on Feb. 10 at the Tyson Invitational, while Kwaume McGee's mark of 6' 11" in the high jump ranks third in the country.
"On the men's side, we have a really strong group of jumpers that have put up good numbers this year," Vance said. "We have three inside the top eight, and we anticipate that they should score some points, and we need them to score some points. That's going to be an important area for us, and an area that we're anticipating getting some points and we need to score big.
"We also have three inside the top right in the hurdles, and in the 600 we have three inside the top eight. You can't win a national championship without your distance runners scoring some points for us, and we have guys qualified anywhere from the 800 to the 5K. Really what it comes down to is that in the events we're strong in we need to score some really good points there, and if we do that, just getting one or two here and there might be enough for us to get the job done."
The Lady Texans also enter the weekend ranked second in the latest polls with 308.77 points. New Mexico JC sits in first with 343.94 points, with Iowa Central, Barton and Iowa Western Community College rounding out the top five.
The Lady Texans have proven to be one of the top relay groups in the country as they hold the top marks in the 4x800 as well as the distance medley relay. South Plains ran the fastest time in the country after posting a final time of 9:31.70 in the 4x800 on Feb. 3 at the Charlie Thomas Invitational. The Lady Texans then went on to run a 12:18.42 in the distance medley relay later in the day which also ranks first in the NJCAA. The Lady Texans also hold the second fastest time in the NJCAA in the 4x400 thanks to a final mark of 3:43.23 at the Tyson Invitational.
Safia Bright posted the third fastest time in the 200 after she ran a 24.15 on Feb. 17 at New Mexico Junior College, as well as the ninth fastest time in the 60 meters after running a 7.52 at the Charlie Thomas Invitational. Seselia Dala posted the fifth fastest time in the 1000 meters with a time of 3:02.30 and the fifth fastest time in the mile run with a 5:09.90.
"Probably the strongest spot right now for our women are the relays," Vance said. "We're ranked No. 2 in the 4x400, ranked No. 1 in the DMR and ranked No. 1 in the 4x800. So, we need those girls on those relays and it's a bunch of different athletes that compete for us there. We need them to go score those points. We need to be in the top two or win those three relays and help us hit the ground running."
You can watch South Plains compete for another national crown live at the link below. Coverage begins at 10:30 a.m. CST on March 3 and continues through March 4.
Watch Live here: https://www.flotrack.org/live/2108-njcaa-indoor-championships/signup?next=http://live.flotrack.org/#/event/2108-njcaa-indoor-championships
Head coach Erik Vance recently discussed the Indoor National meet which can be seen below: