Led by the duo of Simon Wulff and Zachaeus Beard, the Northwestern State men’s track & field team has earned its highest indoor ranking ever, checking in at No. 26 in the inaugural U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches poll, released Monday.
The ranking is due in part to record-breaking performances from Wulff and Beard at the Corky Classic on Jan. 14.
The previous best was a No. 57 ranking in the first poll in 2015, dating back to 2008.
The only non-power five conference schools to be ranked above the Demons are Princeton (No. 8), Northern Arizona (15) and Tulsa (21).
“This ranking is a testament of the players and their hard work throughout the fall and up to this point,” head coach Mike Heimerman said. “We could have a few more push us further up the rankings and I am looking forward to seeing them improve throughout the season. It should be a fun, fun, year.”
Wulff, the reigning Southland Conference men’s track performer of the week, smashed both his personal best and school record in the 200-meters with a 20.62 time, which ranks second in the NCAA.
In addition to his spectacular 200-meters time, he also had a great showing in the 60-meters, running a personal-best 6.72, earning him a 12th-place finish in Lubbock.
“My goal for this season is to have top five times,” Wulff said. “I was surprised by my 200-meter time. My goal was to run a sub-21.00 and I actually nearly reached 20.60. I was surprised by that, but really happy.”
In his first meet at NSU, Beard made his presence felt, running a blistering 6.54 in the 60-meters, winning the qualifying race. Like Wulff, his record-breaking time is also ranked second nationally.
“It really means a lot of break the conference record,” Beard said. “Honestly, it really fueled the fire for me. A lot of people get complacent, but it made my hungrier than I already was.”
Beard, a Langston transfer, was the national champion and national record holder in the event in 2022.
When transferring, he knew what school he wanted to attend.
“My dad went here and went to the NFL from NSU, so it basically came full circle for me,” Beard said. “It was destiny and I wanted to come back home as well and be a hometown hero.”
NSU is one of five Southland teams in the 164-team rankings, joining Texas A&M-Commerce (87), Lamar (96), Southeastern Louisiana (128) and Incarnate Word (158).
The ranking was dominated by the SEC, as three of the top six teams and six of the top 19 are from the conference.
Stanford holds the top spot, with Texas Tech and Florida State slotted right behind the Cardinal in the initial poll.
Athletes from Texas Tech (Courtney Lindsey, 200-meters) and Florida State (Ismael Kone, 60-meters) are the only athletes to have better times in those events than Wulff and Beard.
NSU is back in action Saturday at the Wendy’s/Pittsburg State Invitational in Pittsburg, Kan., in the second of three indoor meets prior to the SLC Indoor Championships on Feb. 26 and 27.
Photo Credit: Mike Wade Photography