Northwestern State’s Steels leaps to NCAAs in long jump, Jackson sets record to reach 400 finals

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Long jumper Jasmyn Steels didn’t leave anything to chance Thursday as her first jump of 21-2.75 vaulted her to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore.

Steels placed seventh in a deep group of regionals jumpers with eight athletes reaching at least 21 feet at North Florida’s Hodges Stadium.

Her second attempt came in at 20-5.75 before she fouled her third attempt.

“I know she was working on a few things approach wise, but she did exactly what she needed to do today,” said NSU coach Mike Heimerman. “I think she experimented on her second and third jumps, but I know she’s ready to jump big in Oregon.

“Only getting three attempts at regionals, it’s kind of like making the finals in a normal format. It’s stressful even for the most savvy of veterans, but she’s been on the biggest stages. She knew how to handle it, and she did it to perfection.”

Back in 2019, Steels placed second in the NCAA East Regionals with a mark of 20-5. That distance would have just missed the cutoff to go to nationals in 2021.

At the 2019 nationals, Steels unleashed her personal best and NSU record of 22-0.25 to take silver.

With one of the nation’s fastest 400 meter runners (South Carolina’s Aliyah Abrams) in the lane to the outside of her, senior Natashia Jackson smashed her own program record to qualify for the region finals.

Jackson clocked a 52.55, nearly six-tenths faster than her 53.14 that won the Southland Conference title, to finish third in her heat and automatically qualify for Saturday’s finals.

“Just an awesome race,” Heimerman said. “Her and (Coach Adam Pennington) talked about running her race, and (Jackson) executed it to a perfect T.

“It’s the first time she’s really run her race this year. I’ll never bet against Speedy, and I’m really excited to see what she’ll do in Saturday’s final.”

The Houston native ran out of lane eight with Abrams in lane nine, placing 10th overall in the 48-runner field. Abrams’ 52.21 ranked third overall.

Jackson, who was named the SLC Women’s Track Athlete of the Year earlier Thursday, will run in her second regional final in the 400 meters in her career as she seeks her first NCAA Championships as an individual.

She’ll toe the line in just one individual event Saturday after not advancing in the 200 meters.

Jackson closed quickly and surged past three runners at the finish line, but she finished fifth in her heat and 29th overall with a 23.62. The time is just one-tenth off her personal mark.

“I think she was a little gassed from the 400 and came out a little tight,” Heimerman said. “But she still almost set a PR.

“She’s always going to compete to the end, she just didn’t have quite enough left in the tank. But she’s going to do everything right from eating the right foods to doing the proper warmups to be ready for Saturday’s 400 meters.”

Hurdler Janiel Moore set a personal record in the 400 hurdles at 59.98. Moore finished sixth in her heat and 34th overall in her first NCAA East Preliminaries appearance.

In the 100 hurdles, Moore came within a tenth of a second of her personal best (13.52) in the 100 hurdles, clocking a 13.60 to finish seventh in her heat.

Moore finished 38th in the 48-runner field. She outperformed her rankings (40th in the 100 hurdles and 48th in the 400 hurdles).

“She ran a really great 400 hurdles, and she set a PR despite overstepping a little on hurdle six and getting out of step,” Heimerman said. “Janiel is very happy she broke a minute, but she knows she can still run faster, and that gives her confidence that she belongs on this stage.

“The high hurdles (100 hurdles) also had positives, and she got close to a PR. Now that she’s competed on this stage, it’ll get some of those butterflies out for the 4×400 on Saturday.”

Jackson will take part in the 400 and the 4×400 relay with Moore, Diana Granados and Erin Wilson. Steels will try to go 2-for-2 to the NCAAs with the triple jump.

The NSU men return to action in four events Friday.

Triple jumper Quindarrius Thompson will make his third career attempt to reach the NCAA Championships at 2:15 p.m. He ranks 30th in the region with a 51-2.25.

The running events begin with the 4×100 relay, featuring Kie’Ave Harry, Kennedy Harrison, Javin Arrington and Tre’Darius Carr. Their 39.80 ranks 14th in the East Region with the top 12 advancing.

Harry toes the line in the 100 meter finals at 6:05 p.m. before Kennedy Harrison bolts in the 200 meter finals at 7:10 p.m.

Harry finished 23rd overall with a 10.27 and was the last runner to advance on time in Wednesday’s prelims.

Harrison clocked a 20.90 and finished 22nd overall in Wednesday’s prelims.