Northwestern State’s Harry, McDuffie take gold to lead impressive group at Texas A&M

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Despite not competing for more than 10 months and having to duke it out with top programs in a condensed Ted Nelson Invitational, the Northwestern State track and field program didn’t show signs of rust Saturday.

Kie’Ave Harry led a deep group of men’s sprinters as NSU impressed in short distances.

Harry snatched the 60 meters crown to pace three NSU runners in the top four before three Demons placed in the top five in the 200 meters.

In the 60 meters, Tre’Darius Carr and Brandon Letts finished third and fourth at 6.82 while Javin Arrington placed made the final and placed seventh (6.89).

Letts’ 6.82 tied a personal best.

“The men’s sprints group did work today, and we expect big things from this group that didn’t have a great indoor season last year,” said NSU coach Mike Heimerman. “Kie’Ave Harry had the best season opener that he’s had, and a lot of guys did great things today.

“I could go down the list of every male sprinter we had, and they either had a career best or a season opening best, so they really did well. (Associate head coach Adam Pennington) does a great job with those guys, and they want to show that they are the dominant group in the Southland Conference.”

The Demons went three-four-five in the 200 meters with newcomer Destine Scott sounding the charge with a 21.46 to win his heat. Carr (21.56) finished just behind Scott while Kennedy Harrison took his heat at 21.66.

The success continued in the men’s 4×400 relay where the Demons placed third (3:17.81). The quartet of Harrison, Aggrey, Scott and Dejon Blake edged one Texas A&M team and nearly eclipsed second-place Arizona State (finished two seconds ahead).

NSU put together a solid showing individually in the 400 with Scott taking fourth place (winning his heat at 48.36) and freshman Ebenezer Aggrey finishing eighth (48.87).

“We have multiple freshman like (Aggrey) that have never run on a banked track before, and he didn’t look like a freshman today,” Heimerman said. “We had a lot of people like Scott running two or three or four events, sometimes close together, and they did extremely well considering we haven’t competed in so long.”

Thrower Kristin McDuffie didn’t let NSU sprinters have all the fun, cruising to a weight throw win and nearly set a new personal best at 56-6. The mark crushed the 10-person field, which included one Texas A&M thrower and seven Southland Conference members, by more than four feet. The senior was six inches shy of her career best.

“That’s Kristin’s first-ever win, and every throw she made could have won the meet,” Heimerman said. “She knows what it feels like to make good throws, and she should get even better as the season goes along.”

Freshman Hayden Barrios splashed onto the pole vault scene and jumped right over his father Chad in the NSU record books.

Barrios cleared 16-1.25, NSU’s second-best mark ever (including dad’s mark of 16-0), to place seventh.

“He’s a heck of a worker, and he’ll own the school record as a true freshman,” Heimerman said.

The meet, which didn’t feature team scoring, was reduced to six teams and one day because of COVID-19. Host Texas A&M and Arizona State were joined by Southland Conference members Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston and Sun Belt Conference entry UT Arlington.

Lynell Washington certainly didn’t show any rust, blazing a 7.50 to place third in the 60 meters. She just missed her own school record by .06, which she set in her first indoor season. Newcomer Aarika Lister made the finals and finished seventh with a 7.66.

“We thought Lynell was going to win it but she faltered a little bit at the end,” Heimerman said. “She’s going to run fast regardless, and that’s really just her fourth or fifth collegiate meet.

“Lister came close to personal bests herself, and we know this group will be very good as well.”

Lister combined with Jayla Fields in the 200 meters to finish fourth (24.87) and fifth (24.97), respectively. The versatile Fields added an eighth-place mark in the long jump (17-8.75).

Janiel Moore made room for herself in a crowded 60 hurdles field, taking fourth with an 8.68.

Freshman Alexus Harris burst onto the scene in her collegiate debut, winning her 400 meters heat (57.75) and placed fifth overall. Erin Wilson (58.43) also won her heat and came in sixth.

Payten Vidourek topped his best mile, placing seventh with a 4:21.84.

Olivia Sipes set a new personal record in the 800 meters (2:20.89), besting her previous mark by nearly three seconds to finish seventh overall and second in her heat.

The Lady Demons showcased its deep class of pole vaulters as Reagan Darbonne (12-4) captured fourth place in her first competition since her 2019 All-America performance at the NCAA Outdoor National Championships. Arkansas transfer Parish Kitto (12-4) finished fifth with Annemarie Broussard (11-10) coming in eighth. Freshman vaulters Madison Brown (11-4.25) and Karlyn Trahan (10-10.25) each cleared bars in their first meets.

Freshman thrower Briana Washington started off the day with a seventh-place showing in the shot put (41-1.75).

“We really can’t complain about anything today,” Heimerman said. “With all of the precautions like wearing masks, different check-ins and all that, they did everything we asked them to do.”

NSU returns to action Jan. 29 at LSU’s Louisiana Invitational.

CREDIT: Mike Wade Photography