LEVELLAND — One final race, or in this case, two, for an opportunity to cement your spot in the record books and earn the title of national champion.
The task was clear – finish what you started.
The South Plains College men's and women's track and field teams did just that Thursday in front of their home crowd at the Texan Track and Field Complex, as South Plains brought home two national crowns, winning the men's and women's NJCAA Outdoor Track and Field National Championships.
"We have an unbelievably hard working group of kids, and they wanted this and they are the ones that did this," South Plains head coach Erik Vance said. "We just try to put them in the right places, and they fought every inch, every second, and did everything they could possibly do to go get two trophies. Now, here were are, we got them both."
Leading New Mexico Junior College by a single point heading into the final race of the meet, the South Plains College women's 4x400 team comprised of Anna-Kay Allen, Jordan Brown, Keshana Page, and Camille Lewis finished third in a time of 3:47.84, one spot ahead of the Lady Thunderbirds, to take the women's national title with 110.3 points.
This is the first women's team title for the Lady Texans since 2015. New Mexico Junior College placed second with 108 points, with Iowa Central finishing third with 81 points.
The Texans faced a daunting task - outrun Barton County, who posted the top 4x400 time in the preliminaries.
Led by sophomore All-American Khaleb McRae, the Texans trailed the Cougars by two points heading into the men's 4x400 relay. South Plains found its stride at the perfect time, as Shevoie Reid, Isaiah Palmer, Gabriel Woodard, and McRae ran a blistering 3:06.71 to take national gold, with Barton County placing second in 3:07.19. The Texans added 10 points to their final team total, tying Barton with 101 points each to finish as co-National Champions. Cloud County finished third with 96 points.
"Khaleb is one of the single most competitive kids I've ever been around," Vance said. "He wants to win as bad as anyone there is, and he's just that kind of guy. I felt confident when got it to him, and Barton has some great runners and we knew they were going to lay it out there. When I watched him get through 200 meters, I had the same feeling as I did at the 2018 indoor meet, and knew we had it. He closed the deal, and finished off the relay and finished off the sweep."
Onaara Obamawagun, the reigning indoor national champion in the women's triple jump capped off her career with a gold medal in the women's outdoor triple jump with a mark of 43' 9.75". Dejah Fuller earned a sixth-place national finish in the triple jump with a mark of 38' 4.75". Tony McNeal picked up six points for the Texans in the men's triple jump, soaring 50' 6" to earn a third-place national finish.
In the women's 4x100, Rosemary Chukwuma, Page, Joniar Thomas, and Success Umukoro won national gold with a time of 44.83. In the men's 1500 meters, Mehdi Yanouri added four points for the Texans with a fourth-place finish with a time of 3:57.00. Umukoro would then win national gold in the women's 400-meter dash, crossing the line in 53.95. McRae would follow up with a top finish in the men's 400 meters, leaving no doubt as the decorated sprinter ran a 45.82, nearly a second faster than the rest of the field.
The Lady Texans added three points in the 100-meter hurdles as Tia Harry crossed the line in 14.18 to earn a sixth place national finish. The Texans notched six points in the 110 hurdles as Justin Guy ran a 14.00 to earn a bronze medal. Solidifying herself as one of the top sprinters to compete for South Plains College, Chukwuma won national gold in both the women's 100 meters and 200 meters, posting an 11.26 in the 100m, and a 23.18 in the 200m.
"I don't know if there is another word for this besides pure joy," said Vance, who was named the Men's and Women's Coach of the Meet. "This is what we do it for, and this is what all these kids have worked for. I'm just excited for them."
Meet results: http://www.spato.us/cresults/2021/spcnjcaaoutdoor/