Jackson and Flagler snag individual titles on final day of Southland Outdoor Championships for NSU

Natashia Jackson scored 24 points Sunday, posting a 400/200 double including a school-record 400 time, while Tremayne Flagler ran to another gold medal in the 110 meter hurdles Sunday for Northwestern State on the final day of the 2019 Southland Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships at NSU’s Walter P. Ledet Track Complex.

The Lady Demons finished third (107.5 points) while the Demons, who absorbed a severe loss when All-America sprinter Micah Larkins was injured in the day’s first race, placed fourth (79) in the team standings. NSU was the top Louisiana finisher in both divisions.

Sam Houston State claimed its third straight men’s Southland title with 164 points. Stephen F. Austin piled up 195.5 points to run away with its ninth conference crown, the seventh in the past 10 years.

Jackson, a highly-accomplished junior sprinter, took her third straight Southland Outdoors 400 meter dash crown in a record time of 53.49. She came back to capture her first conference 200 title with a personal-best 23.55. She ran blistering anchor legs on two silver-medal relay teams, following Marjorie Thompson, Kimani Evans and Ona Giles to a 45.49 4×100 meter clocking and combining with Diana Granados, Evans and Courtney Willis for 3:41.96 in the 4×400.

“It was very stressful to come out here and reset after each race,” said Jackson. “It takes a lot of work and patience, but I always trusted that my coaches prepared me. I’m glad I was able to meet a lot of my expectations.”

“One of the things I take away from today is Natashia Jackson dominating her events,” said head track and field coach Mike Heimerman. “It was a phenomenal day for her.”

Associate head coach and sprints coach Adam Pennington also had a lot of praise for the Lady Demons.

“On the women’s side, I think we executed in almost every area that we could. We ran fast and had some season-bests in both relays,” said Pennington. “We got beat, but you can’t be too disappointed in that when you perform well. SFA has a great team. Natashia Jackson went out there and kept a long streak alive of wins in the 400 at the conference meet. We like that tradition for the women.”

Flagler impressively captured the first title of his two-year NSU career in the 110 hurdles, runining 14.03 into a light wind. The Atlanta, Georgia, native qualified Saturday with the top time of 13.87, just 0.01 away from the school record held by Joe Rhyans in 1993.

“This feels really great,” said Flagler. “It was a goal that me and (2018 Lady Demon senior) Daeshon Gordon talked about before she passed (last fall), and I finally achieved it.”

After scoring 14 points with second in the long jump and third in the triple in back-to-back days, Jasmyn Steels entered the high jump Sunday with no anticipation of a podium finish. The NCAA Indoor long jump champion had a collegiate personal best in the high jump of 5-5 indoors and no appearance in the 2019 outdoor season to date. The College Station, Texas, product surpassed all the odds with a silver medal and a height of 5-8 ½, outdone only by the NCAA’s second-ranked Sashane Hanson of Texas A&M Corpus Christi who won the event at 5-9 ¾.

“This is really awesome,” said Steels. “I don’t practice the high jump much. I am usually tired by the time it comes around in most meets after doing the long jump or triple jump. But since it was a three-day meet, I asked coach to throw me in there and it worked out.”

“I’m not sure Jasmyn has even practiced the high jump since the indoor conference meet and then she clears a PR and ends up second,” said Heimerman. “You can’t teach talent, and that girl has got tons of it.”

The men’s 4×100 relay produced the most devastating moment for the Demons in any of the three days. Nearing the second exchange from Larkins to Javin Arrington, NSU’s senior star injured his hamstring, but got the baton passed before he collapsed in pain, leaving him unable to compete for the remainder of the meet. The Haughton High School product had been the top 100 qualifier, favored for his third century crown in four years, and the fourth-best 200 qualifier on Saturday.

The relay team settled for a silver medal with a time of 40.02 with teammates Eddie Clarke (first leg) and Tre’Darius Carr (anchor).

Arrington (fourth in 10.58, a PR) and Carr (sixth, 10.70) gave NSU eight points in the 100. Carr also came in sixth in the 200 (21.37) for three more.

“We were pretty far ahead in the men’s 4×100 and I think we could’ve won. But the injury set us back a little,” said Pennington. “Tre’Darius and Javin really stepped up, later on in the 100 and 200.

“I’m very proud of the sprint group. We’re looking forward to a little rest and recovery so that we’re healthy for regionals.”

Backing Steels’ impressive day in the high jump was freshman Lauren Clarke’s fourth-place mark of 5-7 ¼, giving the Lady Demons 13 points in that event.

In the men’s javelin throw, NSU recorded 10 points from three throwers. Collin Milton turned in a 193-0 for fourth while Colt Shankle finished just behind him at 191-0, a new personal best. De’John Garrison also edged out a point with an eighth-place mark of 184-10.

Outside the women’s relay success, Evans also placed fifth in the 100 with a time of 12.08.

Slavoski Wright gave the Demons four points with a 1:54.05 mark for fifth in the men’s 800. Jayla Fields was fifth in the women’s 200 in 24.44.

Charlie Milton ran a 54.36 to finish sixth in the men’s 400 hurdles to add three points for the Demons.

Kristin McDuffie set a new career best in the discus throw with a heave of 147-5 to place seventh.

Brad Alexander, Jalen Hewitt, Milton and Wright clinched the final scoring spot (eighth) with a time of 3:16.47 in the afternoon’s final event, the men’s 4×400 relay.

NSU heads to Lake Charles next Saturday for the McNeese Last Chance Meet, where athletes who don’t already qualify for the NCAA East Preliminaries will have a final chance to do so. NCAA regional competition is May 23-25 with the top 12 finishers in each event there advancing to the NCAA Outdoors June 5-8.

Final team standings:

Women

1)Stephen F. Austin 195 ½, 2) Incarnate Word 120, 3) Northwestern State 107 ½, 4) Abilene Christian 104, 5) McNeese 55, 6) Sam Houston State 47, 6) Texas A&M-CC 47, 8) Central Arkansas 40, 9) Lamar 34, 10) Southeastern La. 29, 11) Houston Baptist 17, 12) New Orleans 14, 13) Nicholls 9

Men:

1) Sam Houston State 164, 2) Abilene Christian 104, 3) Stephen F. Austin 91, 4) Northwestern State 79, 5) Incarnate Word 73 ½, 6) Lamar 70, 7) Texas A&M-CC 56 ½, 8) McNeese 46, 9) Houston Baptist 43, 10) New Orleans 31, 11) Central Arkansas 29, 11) Southeastern La. 29