Northwestern State prepares for strong competition at Arkansas

FAYATTEVILLE, Ark.—Throughout the indoor season, the Northwestern State track teams have gone to meets to challenge itself, and this one is no different. 

The Demons and Lady Demons travel to Arkansas for the Tyson Invitational, a two-day event, which begins Friday at the Randal Tyson Track Center on the campus of the University of Arkansas. 

It is the final scheduled meet for the track teams prior to the Southland Conference Championships, which begin Feb. 26. 

The track performers aim to continue their strong performances after two successful meets to begin the indoor season. 

“Everybody has been doing such a great job,” head coach Mike Heimerman said. “Almost each week everyone is hitting a season best or personal best. We’ve just been trusting the process and keep building for indoor conference. I won’t be surprised when a dozen or more personal bests come this week.” 

After being hurt for most of the previous two seasons, Aarika Lister has improved in each of her runs so far this season. In the 60-meters in the season debut at the Corky Classic, she ran a 7.68, before running a 7.56 in the prelims and winning the final with a time of 7.43 in the Pittsburg Invitational. 

Lister’s 7.56 in the prelims came in second, only to teammate Lynell Washington, who ran a 7.46. Washington also posted a 7.43 in the final but was edged out by Lister. 

The 4×400 women’s quartet of three freshmen and a sophomore of Sian Weller, Sanaria Butler, Maygan Shaw and Vanessa Balde came in first in the last meet at the Pittsburg Invitational. 

NSU’s freshmen trio of Weller, Butler and Balde are just three of an impressive group of freshmen and Heimerman is excited for what is to come from them. 

“I have been impressed with so many athletes,” Heimerman said. “Just about every freshman girl has been really impressive. They’ve been phenomenal. Coach (Adam) Pennington did an amazing job recruiting them here and they are just starting to scratch the surface.” 

Beard, Zachaeus has impressed in his first two runs at 60-meters, with his conference-record time of 6.54 at the Corky Classic, which is third nationally. Simon Wulff’s school-record time of 20.62 in the 200-meters still ranks ninth nationally. 

Wulff also ranks in the top 40 in the 60-meters, with his time of 6.66, slotting in tied for 37th

“Some of these kids will be running events for the first time,” Heimerman said. “We’re opening it up to some kids in their specialty events. With us only playing three meets before conference, it gets difficult to get the events in. “ 

In the field, Djimon Gumbs is coming off an impressive showing, finishing second in the men’s shot put with a distance 59-0. 

His twin brother, Diamante Gumbs, is fresh off a personal best in the event with a distance of 55-3. 

Diamante Gumbs also posted a season-best 57-10 in the weight throw. 

In addition to NSU, 31 other teams are participating, including the host school Arkansas, which men’s team is ranked No. 1 and women’s team is ranked No. 2 in the country. Overall, seven of the top 25 in the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll and six of the top 25 men’s teams are taking part in the meet. 

“This is a great opportunity for our kids to compete against some top SEC and Big 12 talent,” Heimerman said. “It is going to be a tough meet and we are going in there to try to grind it out and see if it will prepare us for indoor conference. If we can run well against the competition we’ll face this weekend, we can run against anybody.” 

The teams are back in action in the conference championships on Feb. 26 for a two-day event in Birmingham, Ala.