HUMBLE, Texas – The Northwestern State women’s track and field team has been a picture of consistency, finishing in the top three in each of the last 11 Southland Conference Championships.
But what the Lady Demons don’t have, in that 11-championship stretch or in the program’s history, is a team conference title.
NSU takes aim at it again in the SLC Outdoor Championships, a three-day event which begins Friday at Turner Stadium in Humble, Texas.
The Lady Demons are super deep in a handful of events that will need to carry the load if NSU is to be within reach of a title.
“It would be a great feeling,” said junior pole vaulter Annemarie Broussard. “We’ve been runners up twice (in Broussard’s career) and third at this year’s (SLC Indoor Championships).
“Our team wants it, we just have to put it together on that day to bring home team title.”
Broussard has certainly put it together, winning the last three pole vault conference titles (two indoor and one outdoor). A fourth straight title would tie the SLC’s consecutive pole vault title record with three other women.
None of the championship-winning jumps were higher than 13 feet, a bar which she cleared consistently this season with a best of 13-7.25 in February.
While any given day in pole vault can be tricky, Broussard is almost guaranteed a spot on the podium, and she wants to see other Lady Demons standing beside her.
Sophomore Karlyn Trahan did just that with a bronze medal indoors, and sophomore Madison Brown’s 12-5.50 is second-best on the team this outdoor season and ranks third in the conference.
All four NSU vaulters, including senior Parish Kitto, scored points at the SLC Indoor championships, totaling 21 points.
Sprints, hurdles still top notch
The other main area on which NSU will rely is the traditional strength of sprints and hurdles.
Senior Janiel Moore could be an MVP candidate as a champion threat in the 400 hurdles and 100 hurdles as well as a podium threat in the 100, 200 and 400 meters. Moore, who will run in just two of those open events and not all five, will also run a leg of the 4×400 relay that’s won eight of the last 10 titles.
Moore’s injury heading into SLC Indoors was a factor in NSU’s third-place finish.
“Knowing it’s my last year as a student-athlete, it would mean a lot to be a conference champion,” said Moore, who is a seven-time medalist that includes one individual gold in the 60 hurdles. “It would be a good thing to look back on and remember the good times.
“I did everything I could (at SLC Indoors), but the small things matter and we didn’t get what we wanted. I was still able to contribute to a third-place finish, but we’re this close to being over the top.”
Moore will have hurdles company from Aliyah Carswell, who ranks fourth in the 100 hurdles after claiming silver indoors. Freshman Orsciana Beard, ranked seventh, could provide valuable points as well.
Sophomore Lynell Washington leads a talented sprints group that will contend in all three short sprints and both relays.
Washington is the favorite in the 100 (11.47) and second-ranked in the 200 (23.84). The New Orleans native is a two-time 60 meters champion who aims to match that success outdoors.
Freshman Maygan Shaw, who was the first NSU female freshman to win a gold medal at indoors (400) in program history, leads the 400 field by a full second (54.90).
NSU totals three sprinters ranked to score in the 100 (Taylor Shaw and Aarika Lister), three in the 200 (Maygan Shaw and Taylor Shaw) and two in the 400 (Erin Wilson).
“I hope they score a lot of points,” said NSU coach Mike Heimerman. “Janiel has done everything that we’ve asked her to do, and as a senior, she’s done it exceptionally well.
“Lynell came in and scored points for us last year in outdoors even though she was injured, but we’re looking for more points this year. Aliyah has stayed after it year after year, and she has a chance to reach the podium as well because her hard work has paid off.”
Can young throws, jumps garner much-needed points?
NSU’s best chances to reach the podium in jumps and throws lies with its freshmen.
Carnitra Mackey has the highest ranking in these categories as a third-place javeliner who threw 138-11 this season. The Lady Demons would certainly benefit with points from Ashley Duffus (fourth) and Akira Phillip (seventh) in the event.
Mackey is a scoring threat in the shot put (sixth) as well.
Jumper Jaslyn Smith could leap onto the podium in the triple jump (ranked sixth) along with Beard (ninth).
A strong performance from sophomore Olivia Valliere could prove essential to a title bid as she’s in the top 12 in three different throws events.
“We’re super young on the women’s side,” Heimerman said. “We’re probably still a year out, but they are doing some great things and trusting the process.
“It’s clicking slowly but surely, and they are making a move.”
Photo: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services
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