With a national ranking in hand for the Lady Demons, the Northwestern State track and field team returns to action in the University of Houston G5 & Super 22 Invitational beginning Friday.
The Lady Demons entered FloTrack’s national rankings at No. 23 as they prepare for the two-day meet, which opens at 2 p.m. Friday inside Houston’s Yeoman Fieldhouse. The Lady Demons are one of two non-Power Five teams in the rankings.
“I’m very confident with this team,” head coach Mike Heimerman said. “It’s a talented group and a fun group to be around. These girls like getting after it. They have a goal to do something that hasn’t happened at Northwestern State, winning a conference championship.”
This weekend marks the midpoint of the indoor track and field season for Northwestern State, which has five meets scheduled ahead of the March 1-2 Southland Conference Championships.
It also brings about one of the most wide-ranging fields the Demons and Lady Demons will see during the indoor season.
“There are schools from Arizona, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana,” Heimerman said. “There’s a wide range. You have teams from Conference USA, the American, Sun Belt and the Southland. There are a lot of schools and a lot of great competition. We’ll have an even better measuring stick than what we’ve had.”
This weekend’s measuring stick places the Demons and Lady Demons against some of the top Group of Five teams in the nation, including host Houston, Southern Miss, Grand Canyon, UTSA, Florida International and Rice among others.
NSU also will see numerous Southland Conference rivals in the competition. Among SLC squads making the trip to Houston are Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston State, Lamar and Houston Baptist. State schools in the meet include Louisiana Tech, UL Lafayette, Grambling and Southern.
In addition to its performance-based credentials, Northwestern State’s inclusion in the meet was buoyed by the relationship associate head coach Adam Pennington has established with Houston coach and nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis.
“Carl Lewis is probably the most high-profile track athlete outside of Usain Bolt,” Heimerman said. “It shows how good Adam has been in coaching those events. That’s how Carl Lewis noticed him. We were recruiting the same athletes, and we beat Houston for a few of them. They beat us on some of them, but what coach Pennington’s done with Northwestern State’s sprints has put them on the national map. That’s why he stood out. That’s the type of talent and coaching talent we have here at Northwestern State.”
The G5 & Super 22 Invitational marks the first competition for Northwestern State since the Lady Demons won the Texas A&M Ted Nelson Invitational and the men authored a top-five finish on Jan. 17.
NSU set four meet records during that time and produced a sweep of the Southland Conference Women’s Track and Field Athletes of the Week honors with sprinter Natashia Jackson and long jumper Jasmyn Steels collecting those.
Steels set her third consecutive meet record at the Ted Nelson, which took place in her hometown of College Station, Texas. This weekend’s meet brings Jackson and several other Demons and Lady Demons back to their hometown.
“Everyone loves to compete and show off in front of friends and family,” Heimerman said. “We have quite a few kids from the Houston area. I’m expecting a lot of big things from our Houston kids, because it’s the first time we’ve run at Houston in the past four or five years.
“As far as Speedy (Jackson), when doesn’t she have a good meet? You know you’re getting 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. I can guarantee that with that young lady.”
Photo Credit: Jameria Smith/NSU Athletics