NSU to showcase talented rosters at home Friday in Leon Johnson NSU Invitational

Led by three nationally-ranked competitors and three highly-ranked event groups, Northwestern State’s track and field teams will be showcased at home Friday in the annual Leon Johnson NSU Invitational at the Walter P. Ledet Track Complex

Six other Southland Conference teams are expected to line up in the same venue where NSU will host the conference meet on May 3-5.

Originally scheduled for Saturday, the decision was made Monday to move the meet to Friday due to expected thunderstorms. Fans should enter through the NSU Soccer Complex main gate. Admission is free.

Field events are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. with the women’s discus (men to follow) and the women’s shot put (men to follow). NCAA Indoor long jump champion Jasmyn Steels leads the contestants in that event at 11, with the pole vault (women first) and high jump (men first) also set for 11. At 2, the hammer throw (men first) and javelin (women first begin, and the final field event, the triple jump, starts at 2:30 with women’s competition first.

At 12:30, Northwestern will honor its 19 seniors with a special ceremony.

Track events start at 1 p.m. with the women’s 3000 meter steeplechase. Men’s races will follow the women’s all afternoon. Races will be conducted on a rolling time schedule, with the 4×100 meter relay as the second event, followed by the 1500, the 100 meter hurdles (women) and 110 meter hurdles (men), 400, 100, 800, 400 hurdles, 200, 5000, and 4×400 relay.

Friday’s meet will also include a poignant moment as the NSU program pauses to pay tribute to Lady Demon hurdles great Daeshon Gordon, who passed away suddenly last October only a few of months after her remarkable collegiate career ended with her claiming honorable mention All-America honors in two events. Her specialty race has been renamed in her memory: the Daeshon Gordon 100 meter hurdles.

The race is the fourth on the track and is projected to begin possibly around 1:45-2 p.m.

Visiting teams expected to compete Friday include Southland Conference members Lamar, Nicholls, Houston Baptist, McNeese, New Orleans and Stephen F. Austin, along with Wiley College.

Sixth-year head track and field coach Mike Heimerman said he can’t wait to show the home crowd what his teams can do.

“You’ll see almost everyone on the roster compete,” said Heimerman. “They may not run exactly what they are used to running, but in this part of the season, we have to work around a bit. Someone might run a 200 instead of a 100 for example.”

“Our home meet is always very important because that’s where we put in all our hard work in practice every day from August to May. It’s always something special when you get to compete at home in front of your friends and family, who sometimes only get to read about you. The athletes really want to put on a show for their supporters. Everybody likes defending their own turf, and it should be a great day.”

NSU has several athletes and event squads ranking among the nation’s best.

NCAA Indoor long jump champion Jasmyn Steels ranks as the nation’s second-best for the outdoor season with a school-record mark of 21-4 ¾, behind only the 21-8 by Taisha Price of Kansas State. The junior’s record leap came at the 92nd Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays on March 27 where she finished first among all collegiate women. It also stands as the best jump in the conference this season.

Two-time All-American sprinter Micah Larkins ranks third nationally in the 100 dash and first in the SLC with his Texas Relays winning time of 10.11. The senior also ranks second in the conference as part of the 4×100 relay team alongside Tre’Darius Carr, Kie’Ave Harry and Eddie Clarke. The quartet ran a 40.00 at the TCU Invitational on March 16.

Larkins, Carr and Harry were three of the Demons’ four first-team All-Americans, along with 2018 senior Amir James, last June when NSU finished seventh nationally in the 4×100 relay.

After uncorking a personal-record long jump (25-4 ½) that stands 16th in the country last Friday at the Carl Kight SFA Invitational, JaCorious Jeter leads three Demons who own the top marks in the Southland. Second and third in the Southland are held by Markeit Steverson (24-9) and LaRon James (24-5 ¾).

The NSU men’s long jump squad ranks second in the nation, with the top four jumpers averaging 24-5 ¾.

The Lady Demons’ triple jump group also ranks second in the country with an average of 40-2 ½.

The Demons’ 100 dash corps ranks sixth in the nation with an average time of 10.40.

Additional NSU athletes ranking in the Southland’s top three this season include men’s javelin leader Collin Milton (204-4).

Two more individual NSU competitors and the women’s 4×400 relay team stand second in the conference: Lauren Clarke, women’s high jump, 5-8; Ceaser Stephens, men’s triple jump, 50-10; and Courtney Willis, Diana Granados, Jayla Fields and Natashia Jackson in the 4×400 in 3:44.91.

The Lady Demons’ 4×100 relay squad has the league’s third-best time, 45.88, from Kimani Evans, Deja Moore, Fields and Jackson.

Also third in the Southland rankings, Demon 800 meter runner Slavoski Wright (1:53.43) and Lady Demon Ariel Watson in the triple jump (41-8 ¾).

At last year’s NSU Invitational, 28 athletes set personal bests while the Demons and Lady Demons claimed 12 victories.