Harry’s, Northwestern State men’s sprints strong start aiming to continue Friday at Louisiana Invitational

NATCHITOCHES – Strong starts to seasons haven’t been common recently for sprinter Kie’Ave Harry, who has been plagued by nagging injuries in each of the last two seasons.

But the Northwestern State senior reversed that trend in the season opening meet, winning the 60 meters at Texas A&M’s Ted Nelson Invitational and capturing the first Southland Conference Indoor Track Athlete of the Week.

Harry and his NSU teammates aim to keep that momentum churning Friday at LSU’s Louisiana Invitational.

“That’s big for me, I’ve never started this well at the beginning of the season,” said Harry, whose 6.74 ranked 17th nationally after the first week of competition. “This year I was 95 percent (healthy), and a performance like this boosts me mentally, boosts my confidence and my faith.

“Every time I got hurt, I never lost faith. I got back just as good as I was when I was healthy two or three years ago. As a group, we want to stay healthy and drop times at LSU. We’ll keep fine tuning so we can go out and win a (Southland Conference Championship).”

The NSU men finished with three of the top four runners in the 60 meters and three of the top five in the 200 meters at Texas A&M.

The Demons or Lady Demons won’t run in the 200 or 400 meters at LSU because the track isn’t banked, but NSU coach Mike Heimerman knows there are plenty of other opportunities to improve as his teams compete in the second of three non-conference meets before the SLC Indoor Championships.

“Everything points to those championships on (Feb. 28 and March 1),” Heimerman said. “There were a few kids who didn’t get to travel last time that will compete and other kids who will improve on their previous times.

“The fact that we had kids set personal bests after no outdoor season and an offseason affected by COVID-19 and two hurricanes, it speaks volumes of what these kids and coaches did this offseason. They were extremely determined.”

Senior thrower Kristin McDuffie nearly had a career mark when she won the weight throw with a 56-6.

“It honestly felt great to show everyone what I’ve been working on,” said McDuffie, who won her first collegiate event and by nearly four feet. “It’s not quite what I wanted, but it does give me more motivation to do better next time.

“I was able to work harder this offseason. We had to wear masks in the weight room, which was a challenge, but we did it anyway and it made us stronger. I’m looking for more aggressiveness (at LSU) because that’s what I need to work on. I’m trying to compete with myself to be the best I can be.”

Two middle distance runners did set career marks in Olivia Sipes and Payten Vidourek.

Sipes (2:20.89 in the 800 meters) and Vidourek (4:21.84 in the mile) are aiming to develop into scorers at the conference meet.

“That was nice to see because they struggled as true freshmen last year, which most true freshman do,” Heimerman said. “The indoor track is half the size, and the strategy is a little different.

“But coach (De’Shalyn Jones) does a great job with the distance kids, and they’ve bought in. The conference is very competitive in the middle distances, but it would be great to get points from them and from some emerging 800 runners as well.”

Division I in-state schools are invited to the Louisiana Invitational, which will feature programs like LSU, in-state SLC members, ULM, UL Lafayette and Tulane.

Field events start at 10 a.m. Carl Maddox Field House with the running events taking place at 1 p.m.

Photo: Mike Wade Photography