Northwestern State’s Beard’s ‘will’ leads him to NCAA Indoor Championships

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico—At a program with a rich history in sprints, it can be hard to make your mark. 

But that is just what Zachaeus Beard has done. 

Beard, a senior for Northwestern State’s track & field team, has a will to be the best, which has led him to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Nationals, which begins Friday at the Albuquerque Convention Center and televised on ESPN+. 

“His will has been really impressive to me,” sprints coach Adam Pennington said. “I don’t think there are many things he is mentally not prepared for when he steps into a meet. 

“I think he works as hard as anyone I have ever coached and has the mindset to be a champion. He has been a champion at the NAIA level, so I think he’s a guy we’re going to count on when he steps up to those big meets to perform at a high level.” 

He reached nationals on the strength of a blistering 6.56 60-yard dash, a school record set at the first meet of the season at the Corky Classic. 

“It felt really good to qualify for NCAA Indoor Nationals,” Beard said. “As far as my excitement level, I am really excited, but I am like that all the time. When I was packing for the trip, it is when it really started to hit me.” 

Beard’s time in the 60-meters was second in the Southland Conference during the indoor season and his time ranks tied for sixth nationally with Wisconsin’s Lawrence Johnson. 

While the senior sees great athletes every week in meets, he has plenty of competition at home as well, as three of the top seven times in the 60-meters are held by Demons, led by Beard’s No. 2 time. Simon Wulff and Dylan Swain also have top-seven times. 

“Competing against that many talented athletes every week, whether it is in a meet or in practice, it always elevates me,” Beard said. “If you have one slip-up, you could have your crown taken from you at any time, so you always have to stay on your toes.” 

A year ago, Beard was a record-setting sprinter for Langston University at the NAIA level, but when he was looking at going Division I, he only interested in one school. 

Beard’s father is Jarvis Blinks, who was a was a defensive back on the football team for Northwestern State from 1972-75, before being drafted in the 14th round by the expansion Seattle Seahawks in the 1976 NFL Draft. 

While at Langston, he was a four-time NAIA track and field All-American. In 2022, Beard was the NAIA indoor track and field indoor track as well as field most outstanding performer. 

Not surprisingly, he was the 60-meter national champion and national record holder last season and 100-meter national runner-up, running a blistering 6.61 in the 60-meters and 10.11 in the 100-meters. 

The rich history on the track for the Demons and Lady Demons include Justin Walker, Micah Larkins, Natashia Jackson and De’Shalyn Jones, but Beard is the first track athlete since Ronnie Powell in 1998 to reach the NCAA indoor championships. 

“Those athletes have led the way over the years,” Pennington said. “They have left the program in good hands and the athletes under them have kept that tradition. Zach came in at a time with some good guys around him that has made him much better and he makes other athletes on the team that much better.  

“To have guys who are willing to work together and just separate themselves from all the outside stuff, I think, is what separates Zach from being good to great. He is going to continue to get better for the fact that he has really bought in and really determined to get to where he wants to be.” 

Beard is the first NSU athlete to reach the NCAA championships, period, since Jasmyn Steels made it in both 2019 and 2020, earning a long jump championship in 2019. 

“It feels good to put on for the city of Natchitoches and the ones who believed in me,” Beard said. “That always feels good.” 

PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Wade Photography