JACKSONVILLE, Florida—“I really want to put a showcase on for my parents and family members in Texas.”
Andrew Gilreath, a native of Missouri City, Texas, is excited about the possibility of heading back to his home state for nationals in Austin, less than three hours away from his hometown.
But first, he and his Demon teammates will have to qualify to get there. The quest to make the trip to Austin begins Wednesday at the Hodges Stadium on the campus of the University of North Florida.
Each day will be broadcast on ESPN+.
Gilreath is one of the Demons athletes competing in one of the nine events during the prelims.
“It is really nice to make it to regionals,” Gilreath said. “This is my first time going there since I was dealing with a lot of injuries last year. This year, everything has started to come together, so I am excited for what’s to come.”
The top 48 athletes in each event from the East Region are vying for one of 12 spots that head to Austin next month for nationals. The first round takes place on Wednesday and the next round is on Friday.
“To have so many athletes qualify for the NCAA prelims is a testament to the quality of athletes we have here and the coaching these athletes get,” head coach Mike Heimerman said. “The coaches have done a really good job to get these athletes ready to compete and qualify for this meet.”
The day begins at 10 a.m. with the men’s hammer throw, but the NSU events start at 6 p.m. with the long jump, which Gilreath participates in, along with teammate Adam Lindo.
Each athlete reached the East preliminaries with a strong showing at the Last Chance meet at West Texas A&M.
After not having their jumps count toward regionals at the Southland Conference championships, Lindo (25-0) and (24-11.25) made the most of their last chance to make regionals at West Texas A&M, as they rank 25th and 30th in the region.
“The whole situation at conference really fueled me to jump further,” Gilreath said. “In the back of my mind, after all those jumps, at West Texas I was just ready to prove everyone wrong and jump what I did at conference. It was basically just proving myself.”
Gilreath’s two best jumps have come in his last two meets, at the SLC championships and the Last Chance meet, even if the one at the championships didn’t count for regional qualifying.
“I feel good about the fact that I have had my best jumps in my last two meets,” Gilreath said. “Every meet, I am just gaining more and more momentum. Once I get to regionals and hopefully nationals, I will just keep building on this momentum.”
In addition to the long jump, the Demons will have participants in the shot put, 100-meters, 200-meters and 400-meters, as well as both the 4×100 and 4×400 relays.
The 200-meters rounds out the Demons on Wednesday, as Simon Wulff and Dylan Swain will compete in the event, which takes place at 8:45.
First up for the Demons in the meet is the jumps, as Gilreath and Lindo participate in the long jump at 6 p.m., starting at the same time as the shot put.
The duo is two of the three participating in the jumps for NSU, as they are joined by Randy Kelly, who qualified for the high jump.
Lindo and Gilreath are both coming off their jumps at the Last Chance meet at West Texas A&M to qualify the NCAA regionals.
Lindo, who posted a 25-0 jump at West Texas A&M to rank 25th, leaped to a silver medal at the Southland Conference championships, while Gilreath earned the bronze and ranks 30th in the region in the event.
Gilreath also nearly qualified for the triple jump.
Kelly, a freshman like Lindo, waits until Friday to try to earn his spot in the regionals, as the high jump takes place at 2:30 p.m.
Kelly is coming off a silver medal at the SLC championships, clearing 6-11.5 twice during the season, including at the championships, which ranks him 20th in the region.
The journey to nationals begins Wednesday for three track sprinters, as well as both relay teams.
Sophomore Simon Wulff qualified for both the 100-meters and 200-meters, senior Dylan Swain will also compete in the 200-meters and senior Destine-Unique Scott is running in the 400-meters.
The 100 is the first race for the Demons, taking place at 7 p.m., while the 400 is at 7:25 and 200 at 8:45.
The top 24 in each event move on to the finals Friday, where the top 12 move on to nationals at the University of Texas.
In addition to the individual races, both relay teams will run Friday with the top 12 moving on to nationals.
Wulff ranking tied for 32nd and 44th in the region in the 100 and 200, respectively.
In the 100-meters, he ran a 10.23 at the Leon Johnson Invitational to push him to the regionals and won the event at the home meet.
Wulff ran a season best in this outdoor season in the 200 at the SLC championships with a 20.73, which earned him a bronze medal.
The sophomore also is a part of the 4×100 relay team that finished 12th in the region, clocking in with a 39.51, which earned him a second-place finish in the Battle on the Bayou.
Like Wulff, Swain also qualified for the 200-meter dash. Swain finished just above Wulff, ranking 43rd in the regional with a 20.73, which took place at the Michael Johnson Invitational at Baylor.
Scott qualified in his final season with the Demons in the 400-meters, placing 47th in the final qualifying times for the East prelims.
His 46.77 time was clocked at the Battle on the Bayou at LSU, making it the second consecutive season he made the NCAA regionals in the 400.
“I never bet against Destine when it comes to big meets,” Heimerman said. “He usually shows up and shows out during those meets.”
Scott, a senior from Little Rock, Arkansas, also is competing in the 4×400 relay team, mostly with Desmond Duncan, Cyrus Jacobs and Galen Loyd.
The quartet snuck into the regionals with its 3:08.57 at the SLC championships, which placed them 24th after everyone declared.
The 4×100 relay is the first relay to take place, doing so at 5 p.m. on Friday, while the 4×400 concludes the men’s portion of the regionals Friday at 8:45.
After having three throwers in five events last season, the Demons have three throwers competing in regionals this season as well. Like last year, the Demons’ three throwers are Djimon Gumbs, Diamante Gumbs and Tarajh Hudson.
Djimon Gumbs, who is coming off being named the male outstanding performer at the SLC championships, will take part in both the discus and shot put, while Diamante Gumbs and Hudson will participate in the discus.
The shot put is the first meet for the NSU throwers, beginning at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, while the discus kicks off the second day for the men at 1 p.m. on Friday.
In the discus, the Demon trio swept the podium at the Southland Conference championships in the discus, led by Diamante Gumbs’ personal best 184-4.
His toss cemented himself in the regionals with his season best toss at conference, which moved him up to 24th in the region.
Djimon Gumbs came in second at the SLC championships with a 180-8 and Hudson captured the bronze with a 169-5.
Overall, Djimon Gumbs came in tops in the region in the discus with a school record toss of 205-11 in the indoor season opener at the Cowboy Relays at McNeese after reaching nationals in 2022.
He also recorded a season best in the shot put with a 63-1.5 at the Cowboy Relays, which is 11th in the region.
“Djimon has had a really good season,” Heimerman said. “He knows he belongs. Being the best thrower in the region, he knows he is one of the guys mentioned among the best throwers in the country. Hopefully he can go out there and throw like he has all semester and moves on to Austin.”
Like Djimon Gumbs, Hudson also posted a season best in the discus at the Cowboy Relays, tossing a 51-0.75