HUMBLE, Texas – Northwestern State sprinter Natashia Jackson aspired to win a gold medal in the same outdoors event all four years when she came to Natchitoches in 2017.
Jackson made that dream a reality Sunday, diving at the finish line to edge Stephen F. Austin’s Imani Nave to set an NSU record 53.14 in her specialty event.
“Speedy” won three gold medals and one silver to help NSU secure a second-place team finish as Jackson ended her career with 19 gold medals, second all-time in Southland Conference history.
“It’s a blessing. From the day I came here, Coach said I had a chance to do great things,” said Jackson, a Houston native who was running in the suburb of Humble at George Turner Stadium. “Every time we come to conference, it’s a fight to the finish, and we do all we can.
“I had to walk into the (400 meters) with the mindset not to lose, and whatever it takes, you go for it. I knew Imani was my biggest competitor – we’ve been running against each other since high school. I knew it was going to take everything in me to win it.”
NSU’s sprints vaulted the Lady Demons up the scoreboard Sunday as NSU scored 81 of its 125 points on the final day. Stephen F. Austin took home the title with 171 points as NSU edged Abilene Christian (119.5) for second.
The Lady Demons posted a top-three finish for the 10th straight championships, including two runner-up finishes this year.
“It’s pretty impressive for all these sprinters out here with a 9 a.m. start and a rolling schedule,” Heimerman said. “We knew that we had girls that were going to get it done, we just had a couple spots that we could have stepped up in.
“We came in a little bit short-handed to begin with, but I can’t say enough about the coaches and athletes that did come in here and did what they did. It was a good weekend, and we’re fairly healthy going to regionals.
Jackson was part of gold medal 4×100 and 4×400 relays.
As the anchor leg of the 4×400, she staved off a challenge from Central Arkansas on the last straight away to protect a lead that Diana Granados, Janiel Moore and Erin Wilson built (3:41.21).
The 4×100 relay of Robyn Byrd, Granados, Jackson and Jayla Fields cruised to a gold with a 45.61 to start a championship meet that moved up to 9 a.m. because of impending rain, which loomed and sprinkled over the entire day.
The meet operated on a condensed schedule, and sprinters had a shorter amount of time to recover between races.
Jackson gutted out a silver in the 200 meters (23.86) to headline an impressive display as Granados (personal record 23.96) and Fields (24.07) took bronze and fourth, respectively.
“You can’t say anything more about Speedy, and she wanted it more than anybody else, came out on top in almost every event,” Heimerman said. “Impressive that (Granados) could also run the 4×100 and turn around to finish fifth in the 400 and medal in the 200.”
NSU captured five points in the 100 meters as Fields placed fifth (11.71) and Washington eighth (12.07). Washington made the final despite battling an injury that held her out since March.
On top of running a 4×400 leg, Moore contributed a pair of medals in the hurdles.
She grabbed silver in the 100 hurdles (13.56) and bronze in the 400 hurdles (1:00.95).
Discus thrower Kristin McDuffie chunked in a throws bronze with a 158-03.
Jumper Jasmyn Steels, who had already claimed gold in the long jump and silver in the triple jump, added a sixth-place finish in the high jump. She cleared 5-7 on her final attempt.
The men scored the majority of their 27 points on the final day as well.
Kie’Ave Harry and Kennedy Harrison captured bronze medals in the 100 and 200 meters, respectively, and ran a leg on the sixth-place 4×100 relay.
Harry clocked a 10.22 in his final while Harrison reached the podium out of lane eight (20.92).
“I feel good about the race, and shout out to the guys in first and second,” Harry said. “I’ve got to get better for regionals.
“Kennedy is a competitor, flat out competitor. He brings it at practice every day and every meet we run. I love that about him.”
The Demons and Lady Demons will turn their attention to the NCAA East Regionals, which take place May 27-29 in Jacksonville, Fla. The top 48 East competitors in each event will suit up for a chance to advance to the NCAA Championships.
PHOTO: Matt Vines/NSU Sports Information