Northwestern State freshmen enjoy huge day at Leon Johnson NSU Invitational

On a day in which Northwestern State honored its eight seniors, it was the freshmen who stole the show on Saturday at the Leon Johnson NSU Invitational.

A record-breaking performance from Sanaria Butler led an impressive meet by the freshmen. 

“It was a great day,” head coach Mike Heimerman said. “The kids wanted some great weather and after a little rainy morning, it turned to be a gorgeous day. The kids had a great day and almost every event had either a personal or season best.” 

Butler dominated in the women’s 400-meters, breaking her own personal record, as well as the school record, meet record and Walter P. Ledet Track Complex record, with a blistering 52.22. The time is second in Southland Conference outdoor history. 

“I had no idea this was going to be a big day for me, especially since I started feeling light-headed midway through the 400, but I felt better after I drank some Gatorade,” she said. “I had no idea what to expect.” 

In the women’s 400-meters, the Lady Demons went 1-2 with Butler and sophomore Maygan Shaw, who finished with a 53.20, which ranks sixth in school history. 

If that wasn’t enough, Butler posted a personal-best 20-00.25 in the long jump, finishing as the runner-up, behind UL Lafayette’s Jacqueline Pokuaah’s 20-6.50. 

If it weren’t for Butler’s massive performance, Randy Kelly would be the freshman who earned the headlines. 

Kelly had a monster day in the high jump, clearing a personal-best 6-11.50, finishing tops in the event and ranking fourth in the world among under-20 participants in the high jump. 

Kelly, a native of Blythewood, South Carolina, also claimed second place in the long jump with a leap of 23-01.75. 

“Randy got the meet going for us and it kept rolling from there, especially with the long jumpers,” jumps coach Richard Fisher said. “Sanaria had a huge personal best today and Jaslyn (Smith) was excellent in the triple jump. We’re definitely happy with the performances today.” 

Vanessa Balde, another freshman, finished with a pair of top-two finishes. In the women’s 200-meters, she finished first with a 23.74. Balde came in second in the 100-meters with an 11.69. 

Yet another freshman Victoria Byrd finished right behind Balde in those two events. She earned two personal bests with a third-place finish (12.05) in the 100-meters and sixth-place finish (24.76) in the 200-meters. 

Two more freshmen earned personal bests in the events, as Sileena Farrell (12.06) placed fourth in the 100-meters, while Jessica Pitcher (25.53) finished ninth in the 200-meters. 

Pitcher also finished third in the women’s 100-meter hurdles with a time of 14.56. 

Sian Weller, a freshman from Houston, finished tops in the women’s 400-meter hurdles with a 1:01.40. 

“Coach (Adam) Pennington and Coach (Richard) Fisher did a phenomenal job recruiting this group of freshmen,” Heimerman said. “It has shown up big this season and will for the next three years.” 

Overall, a total of 28 personal or season bests were set by NSU athletes. 

Another freshman, Justin Craft, posted a pair of personal bests in the throws events, shot put and discus. In the men’s shot put, three Demons finished in the top five, including Craft’s fifth-place finish with a toss of 50-7.25. 

The Gumbs twins finished 1-2 in the event, as Djimon Gumbs tossed a 60-6, finishing first, and his twin brother Diamante Gumbs placed second with a season-best 57-3. 

Craft’s personal best of 142-02 in the discus place him eighth. The Demons placed the top three in the event, as the Gumbs twins once again went 1-2, but this time it was Diamante Gumbs who won the event with a 179-08. Djimon Gumbs placed second with a 176-07 and Tarajh Hudson placed third with a 169-0. 

“It’s been a big learning curve for Justin, but he is really starting to catch it,” Heimerman said. “He had a good day and the future is bright for him.” 

On the track, six athletes posted personal or season bests in the men’s 100-meters, as the Demons finished with the top five and six of the top nine times. 

Simon Wulff led the charge with a 10.23, followed closely by Zachaeus Beard (10.29). Cyrus Jacobs (10.30), Dylan Swain (10.39) and Austin Simoneaux (10.46) rounded out the top five, the last two being a pair of the eight seniors honored. 

Mikkel Johansson placed ninth with a personal-best 10.57. 

While the freshmen earned many of the headlines, the seniors had their big moments as well. 

One of those was in the men’s 200-meters, as Swain, one of those seniors, won the event, as the Demons had four of the top five times in the event. 

Wulff came in third (21.05), senior Destine-Unique Scott finished fourth with a season best (21.09) and Jacobs came in fifth (21.16). 

Johansson posted another personal best with a 21.36, finishing seventh. 

Scott continued his strong performance with a second-place finish in the men’s 400-meters (47.05) and Galen Loyd came in sixth with a personal best of 48.17 and Desmond Duncan finished seventh with a personal best time of 48.64. 

The men’s 4×100 came in first (39.90) and women finished second (45.63). 

In the field, Madison Brown enjoyed a big day, clearing a personal-best 12-6.75. Freshman Peyton Ware finished sixth, clearing 10-7. 

The triple jump saw the men’s and women’s teams combine to record three personal or season bests. 

On the men’s side, Andrew Gilreath won the men’s triple jump with a season-best jump of 49-10.5. 

Two of the top four on the women’s side are Lady Demons. Jaslyn Smith came in second with a personal-best 40-10.25, while Orsciana Beard placed fourth with a personal-best 38-4.75. 

Rei Parks (158-7) posted a personal best in the men’s javelin, while Abria Paul (18-6) in the women’s long jump and Olivia Valliere (143-07) in the women’s hammer throw did the same. 

Carnitra Mackey (126-7) posted a season-best with a 126-7, placing third. 

NSU next heads to Texas for the Michael Johnson Invitational on the campus of Baylor University for a two-day event beginning Friday. 


CUTLINE: Sanaria Butler (right) recorded a personal best, school record, meet record and complex record with a 52.22 in the 400-meter dash at the Leon Johnson NSU Invitational.

CREDIT: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services