COMMERCE, Texas—“I’m making Annie proud.”
Junior Madison Brown gave injured pole vault record-holder Annemarie Broussard a salute following a gold medal-winning performance in the event, highlighting an impressive first day for Northwestern State at the Southland Conference outdoor championships Thursday at Memorial Stadium.
Down to her last attempt at grabbing the gold, Brown cleared a personal-best 12-7.5 to win the SLC championship in the pole vault, narrowly beating out UIW’s Matilde Poli.
“I’m just thanking God right now,” Brown said. “That was a battle. They put up a fight and I had to dig deep to pull that one out.”
Brown, a former Natchitoches Central High School standout athletically and academically, is NSU’s third straight gold medalist in the women’s pole vault, as Broussard won it each of the past two seasons. It is her first Southland crown. She was a state meet qualifier at NCHS for three years while also earning all-district honors in soccer, being a cheerleader and a member of the National Honor Society.
Karlyn Trahan finished fourth in the event, nearly cracking the podium. But the junior still picked up a crucial five points as the women’s team aims to sweep the conference team championships.
“It was a pretty dang good day,” head coach Mike Heimerman said. “Madison did a great job winning her first conference title and making it three in a row for us. Her teammate Karlyn did a phenomenal job as well. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Ashley Duffus was the other NSU athlete to reach the podium on day one, as she threw a personal best 141-01 in her fifth throw in the women’s javelin to collect the bronze medal. It is her first career medal after barely missing the podium in last year’s SLC outdoor championships, finishing fourth.
She was one of two Lady Demons to make the top five in the women’s javelin, as Carnitra Mackey (125-07) earned points with a fifth-place finish. Akira Phillip narrowly missed the finals, finishing 10th with a 116-01.
The women are in second place in the team title chase after day one with 24 points, only trailing McNeese’s 42. The men are seventh with four points.
In the men’s hammer throw, Diamante Gumbs set a personal record and British Virgin Islands record with a 180-0 to finish fifth in the event and crack the top 10 in program history.
On the track, the Demons and Lady Demons lived up to their nickname of ‘Speed Demons.’ Seven combined men and women reached the finals in the 200-meters, four more than the next best (Texas A&M-Commerce and UIW). The women placed four of the top seven, including the top two.
The two friendly rivals Maygan Shaw and Sanaria Butler went 1-2 in the prelims. Shaw ran a 23.76 and Butler came in second with a 23.84. Vanessa Balde placed fourth with a 24.06 and Lynell Washington came back to finish seventh with a time of 24.50 after missing a month.
“The women sprinters did their thing,” Heimerman said. “They didn’t have the best lane draws but they advanced anyway. To put four in the finals shows how strong they are. Maygan, Sanaria, Vanessa and Lynell all were outstanding. Lynell advanced out of lane one, which is just amazing.”
On the men’s side, Dylan Swain (21.10, fourth), Cyrus Jacobs (21.38, seventh) and Simon Wulff (21.39, eighth) all reached the finals, as NSU had three make the finals, more than any school in the conference.
Destine-Unique Scott (21.45) finished 12th, Mikkel Johansson (21.58) placed 15th and Austin Simoneaux (21.74) came in 17th.
“The men did a great job advancing three into the finals, led by Dylan Swain. Simon advanced out of lane No. 1, like Lynell. Being 6’8” in lane No. 1 and running that fast is great.”
To round out the day, freshman Sian Weller posted a personal-best 58.97 in the 400-meter hurdle prelims, which ranks sixth in school history, putting her in the finals.
The teams are back in action for day two of the conference championships Friday in Commerce. The combined events kick off the second day of the meet at 11 a.m. with the field events starting at 3 p.m. and running events beginning at 6:45 p.m.
“Overall, it was a great day,” Heimerman said. “We did a lot of things we wanted to do and just missed out on a couple things, but that happens. We have another big day tomorrow, but I like what I have seen so far.”