NSU set for long trek to Texas Tech Open & Multis

LUBBOCK, Texas – The Northwestern State track and field team’s third road trip to Texas will be a longer one than its previous two.

It also comes with the benefit of a wider variety of competition.

For the first time in the 2022 indoor season, the Demons and Lady Demons will take part in a two-day meet, traveling to Lubbock, Texas, for this weekend’s Texas Tech Open & Multis at Texas Tech’s Sports Performance Center.

The meet begins at 10:30 a.m. Friday with the beginning of the men’s heptathlon. Field events begin at 3 p.m. Friday with running events starting at 5 p.m. Saturday’s schedule starts at 10 a.m. with the women’s shot put while the women’s 200-meter preliminaries kick off the running events at 11:30 a.m. ESPN+ will stream coverage of the meet both days.

“Something (associate head) coach (Adam) Pennington and I have discussed is challenging these young men and women to have them ready to compete in conference,” head coach Mike Heimerman said. “In order to do that, you have to compete against the best. That’s why we’ve been at Texas A&M the past couple of weeks and why we’re going to Lubbock. There are going to be some West regional teams in Arizona State and San Diego State along with Texas Tech, who is ranked very high. There are also some other Big 12 schools that are there too, so it’s another loaded field.”

In addition to stepping up in competition, the Demons and Lady Demons will step up in altitude a bit as Texas Tech’s facility sits more than 3,200 feet above sea level.

Answering the dual challenges of increased competition and competing at a higher altitude dovetails with Heimerman’s message to his team following this past weekend’s Texas A&M Aggie Invitational. At that meet, several NSU competitors took part in events in which they were less experienced.

“They all have their No. 1 event, but we may need them in two events, and in some cases, three events,” Heimerman said. “We need them to fill those shoes because we’ve had people in the past like Natashia Jackson, who did that. We have a fifth-year senior on the team this year in Janiel Moore. Whatever we put her in, she goes out and does it. Last year was the first time she ran the hurdles. She was the conference champion in the indoor and the outdoor runner up, and she had never run it before last year. She’s right behind the conference leader (in the hurdles).

“She won her heat and made the finals last week in the hurdles, but we took her out of the finals to run the 400, and she had a lifetime best. She’s only going to get better and better.”

Moore’s 400 time of 56.83 ranks her second in the Southland behind teammate Maygan Shaw, who clocked a 56.46 at the season-opening Texas A&M Ted Nelson Invitational on Jan. 15. Moore’s 8.76 time in the 60-meter hurdles also puts her in second in the league, .16 seconds behind Houston Baptist’s Kaitlin Smith, who ran her time at the Air Force Invitational on Jan. 20.

As NSU enters its third of four pre-Southland Conference indoor meets, Moore is not alone among Demons and Lady Demons who are near or atop the SLC performance lists.

Shot putter Djimon Gumbs has established the indoor school record in his signature event in each of the first two weeks of the season. The sophomore transfer from New Mexico Junior College’s season-best mark of 61-1.25 at last week’s Aggie Invitational leads all Southland throwers by nearly 8 feet and stands 26th nationally.

Gumbs won his event both weeks at Texas A&M, but he will see a tougher field this week.

“He’s going to see some men from Arizona who are very, very good this week,” Heimerman said. “(Turner Washington of Arizona State) has thrown right at 70 feet. We’re not going to throw that, but we can throw farther than we have. (Gumbs) will be pushed, which is something we’ve looked to do with him. He’s a gamer. He loves the competition and the challenge. Mentally, I try to push him all the time, and 90 percent of the time, he steps up.”

Heimerman saw true freshman Galen Loyd answer his challenge this past week.

Loyd scored for the Demons in three events, finishing fourth in the 400 (48.99), eighth in the 60 (7.2) and running the anchor leg of NSU’s 4×400 relay team that ran a 3:19.36 to finish third behind a pair of Texas A&M squads.

Heimerman credited Loyd’s work ethic – and his training partners – with helping the freshman acclimate to collegiate track and field after a standout career at Grant High School.

“He’s a sponge right now,” Heimerman said. “He’s soaking it all up. He loves to work. He’s in a group of men who love to work with Ebenezer Aggrey and Destine Scott. Those guys love to grind. He’s done some work with our short sprinters like Kie’Ave Harry, Tre’Darious Carr, Dylan Swain and Simon Wulff. Our sprint crew is deep, so to get any recognition they have to step up.”

Photo: Mike Wade/Southland Conference