Despite slogging through a weather delay that pushed field events close to a midnight finish Thursday, Northwestern State’s Jasmyn Steels and Reagan Darbonne set program records in their respective events as the Lady Demons had a banner day at the NCAA Outdoor Championships at Mike A. Myers Stadium.
Steels won silver in the long jump and appeared to be headed for gold when she unleashed a jump of 22-0 ¼, more than seven inches passed her previous career best and school record.
But Florida’s Yanis David, who battled Steels all night Thursday after Steels bested her in the NCAA Indoor Championships, leapt 22-5 ¼ to capture the Outdoor title.
“All of my jumps were really good tonight, but that one, it was it,” Steels said. “Even the ones I fouled, they were it.
“It was great competition. I’m really glad I hit that (22-foot) mark because that’s what I’ve been wanting this whole season, and I finally got it.”
Steels blasted past her Indoors title jump of 21-3 ¼ with a 21-11 ½ on her second jump to keep pace with David, who inched closer to 22.
That jump pushed Steels into the group of the final nine long jumpers, and when Steels ripped off her 22-footer — just the second collegian to do that all season — she had designs of another individual national title. Steels also became the first Southland Conference long jumper to reach 22 feet in league history.
“I was thinking, ‘This could win it,’ but I had to chill out because we had a couple more jumps,” Steels said. “Tonight proved that I worked really hard to get here, and I finally put it all together tonight. (NSU jumps coach Tyron Stewart) fixed some stuff, and on a couple of jumps, I just said I was going to do it.”
But David had other ideas, and her 22-5 ¼ was the best collegiate mark since 2015.
“I’m very proud of Jasmyn as a coach because she came out and competed to the best of her abilities,” Stewart said. “She was very consistent, and she did everything that we wanted to do.
“She didn’t back down from anybody. Jasmyn and (David) battled Indoor, and they brought the same energy Outdoor. The crowd was kind of dead because it was so late, but them feeding off each other really played well, and they gave us a great show.”
Steels became the first NSU student-athlete to medal in both Indoor and Outdoor in the same season in program history. She joins Steve Stockton (bronze in 1981 and silver in 1983 javelin) and the illustrious 4X100 relay members Mark Duper and Mario Johnson to earn multiple NCAA medals in her career.
In the pole vault, Darbonne shook off nerves and an early pole vault miss as she cleared her next two vaults, the latter a school and personal record of 13-9 ¼.
The bar threatened to tumble, but Darbonne clapped vigorously as the bar stayed put.
“When I cleared 13-9, I couldn’t believe the bar stayed up there,” Darbonne said. “I thanked God for letting me have that bar, and then I went up to the next pole (longer) that I’ve never used before.”
The sophomore nearly cleared the next height of 14-3 ¼, but she clipped the bar before it teetered and swayed off its placing.
“I was so excited that I made a PR, and I got over excited and over did a little bit,” Darbonne said. “That’s why I missed the (14-3) bar, but I’m happy that I hit 13-9.
Only eight vaulters cleared that 14-3 ¼ height, and Darbonne finished in a tie for 14th-place to earn second-team All-American status.
“We reached all of our goals tonight, and coming home an All-American was our biggest goal,” said NSU associate head coach Adam Pennington. “Just coming in here and clearing a bar was a goal.
“I’ve very pleased to see how far she’s come, and she was just one bar away from closing in on a first-team All-American. She had me sweating on that 14-3 ¼, and I thought she was going to clear it. But now she has this confidence going into next year, and I think she can be a 15-foot vaulter at NSU.”
NSU head track and field coach Mike Heimerman expressed his delight that Steels and Darbonne were able to hit personal marks on the biggest NCAA stage.
“It’s an amazing feeling for them, and those two ladies have put in a ton of hard work,” Heimerman said. “They’ve listened to their coaches, and their coaches did a great job this year.
“When you do everything right, and it falls into place, big numbers happen. To PR on this stage, not everybody does that. Not everybody handles that pressure.”
Scroll through the program’s Twitter account (@NSUDemonsTF) to watch some of Thursday’s video highlights.
Photo Credit: Brendan Maloney