COLLEGE STATION, Texas –Texas A&M’s Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium quickly is becoming a home away from home for the Northwestern State indoor track and field teams.
For the third straight year, the Lady Demons collected the team title at the Texas A&M Ted Nelson Invitational, using strong performances in the jumps to tally 88 points thanks in large part to five event victories.
NSU’s 88 points cleared runner up North Texas (76.5) while McNeese (70), UT-Rio Grande Valley (48) and host Texas A&M (45) rounded out the top five teams.
LaTyria Jefferson (high jump), Jasmyn Steels (long jump), Lauren Clarke (triple jump) and AnneMarie Broussard (pole vault) combined to lead Northwestern State to a sweep of the women’s jumps while Jeremy Lawson made it an NSU sweep in the long jumps, taking the men’s competition.
“It’s not our goal, but it’s nice to win,” head coach Mike Heimerman said. “I have to give credit to (jumps) coach Tyron Stewart. To sweep the four jumps is pretty impressive. Overall, it was a good day. We saw where we’re at, and we know where we want to go. We’ll get back to work and put together a program to fix what we need to fix.”
In the second meet of her Northwestern State career, Jefferson established another indoor program best and one of three meet records for the Lady Demons, clearing 5-10.5, the third-best mark in program history when combining indoor and outdoor high jump records. A Kansas transfer, Jefferson has a first-place and a second-place finish in two meets as a Lady Demon.
“It was another good day for LaTyra,” Heimerman said. “She set a meet record and had some really good attempts at 5-11.75.”
Steels, the defending NCAA indoor long jump champion, competed in her signature event for the first time this season and wasted no time delivering an event-winning jump. Steels’ first attempt yielded a 20-10.75 mark, giving her not only three straight meet titles in the event but three consecutive meet records. Steels previously set the mark in 2018 (19-9.5) and 2019 (20-4.75) while competing in her hometown.
Teammate Jayla Fields finished seventh with an 18-5 mark, giving the Lady Demons a pair of point producers in the event.
Jefferson and Steels set the stage for Clarke, who teamed with Ariel Watson to give Northwestern State a 1-2 finish atop the women’s triple jump.
Clarke delivered a leap of 41-5.25 on her second attempt, a mark that established a new indoor personal best and gave the sophomore from Houston her first career victory. Clarke’s previous indoor best was 41-2.5 at the 2019 Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Watson also notched a personal best, uncorking a 40-6 mark on her third attempt. All three individual champions established season bests for the Southland Conference in their events while Watson’s mark stands No. 2 in the conference.
Broussard became the second Lady Demon in as many years to set the meet’s women’s pole vault record. Broussard cleared 13-0.75 on her second attempt, surpassing Reagan Darbonne’s 13-0.25 set in 2018.
The Lady Demons’ 4×400 relay team of Diana Granados, Janiel Moore, Erin Wilson and Natashia Jackson gave Northwestern State its fourth victory of Friday’s meet, clocking a 3:48.13 to win the relay by more than two seconds over North Texas (3:50.57).
The relay performance was part of a busy day for Jackson, who added a second-place finish in the 200 meters (24.22) and a fifth-place in the 60 (7.74) to her 4×400 anchor leg.
Also contributing to the Lady Demons’ victory with scoring performances were Lynelle Washington (3rd, 7.66) in the 60 meters, Fields (4th, 24.82) and Deja Moore (6th, 25.02) in the 200, Brianna Washington (8th, 44-0.75) in the shot put and Kristin McDuffie (8th, 53-3) in the weight throw.
“This meet is always special for (Steels),” Heimerman said. “She loves jumping here. She grew up not too far from here. Speedy (Jackson) had her best opening time in the 200 of her career and finished second. We saw a lot of good things. Janiel (Moore) had a good 400. The women’s 4×4 didn’t run the team we wanted, but we won. Lynelle was battling a little nagging injury after the first race, but it was very good for her to learn how to tough it out. We had a PR from Kristin McDuffie and a season-best from Brianna in the shot.”
On the men’s side, the Demons used Lawson’s win to pace a 52-point day and secure a fifth-place finish in the 17-team meet.
NSU’s 52 points placed it behind UL Lafayette (94), Barton County Community College (71), North Texas (62) and UT-Rio Grande Valley (56). The Demons started a run of five straight Southland Conference teams in the standings, 14 points ahead of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Lawson’s first victory in a Northwestern State uniform came via his first attempt, soaring 24-6.5 and seeing that mark stand up against a 29-man field. Steverson climbed into third place on his fourth attempt, recording a 23-11.5 mark as part of a consistent day in which all four of his qualifying jumps would have placed him in the top 10.
Much like the women’s jumps team, the Demons enjoyed contributions throughout the field events as Quindarrius Thompson added a third-place finish in the triple jump (49-7.25) and Marco Arevalo followed up his victory at the LSU Purple Tiger with a fourth-place finish in the shot put (50-8.75).
Freshman Adrian Del Toro nabbed a seventh-place finish in the men’s weight throw (49-8.25), an increase of more than five feet from his collegiate debut at the LSU Purple Tiger.
Slavoski Wright came one tenth of a second away from a new personal best in the 800 meters, finishing third with a time of 1:54.22. The Demons’ distance medley relay team of Yannik Gerland, Dwan Stuckey, Darius Groves and Mike Alukunyang clocked a 10:35.69 to finish fourth.
The Demons took fifth in the 4×400 relay as the team of Dejon Blake, Wright, Brad Alexander and Kennedy Harrison turned in a time of 3:16.73.
A pair of Demons sprinters – Kie’Ave Harry and Brandon Letts – gave NSU points in the men’s 60 meters. Harry clocked a 6.83 time, finishing fourth, while Letts collected a sixth-place finish (6.86) in his Northwestern State debut.
“It was a great season opener for Jeremy,” Heimerman said. “It was a good day for Quindarrius Thompson. Kie’Ave and Brandon ran their fastest season-opening times. The best race of the day was Slavoski in the 800.
“He ran it to perfection from what (associate head) coach Adam (Pennington) asked him to do. He was out of gas with 10 meters left, which is what he wanted. We know his endurance will get better. He only started training about 10 weeks ago. He was hurt for most of the fall and opens up with almost a career best.”
Northwestern State will return to action in two weeks, taking part in the two-day Houston G5 & Mid-Major Invitational, hosted by the University of Houston.
Photo Credit: Mike Wade/Special to NSU Athletics