Northwest indoor track and field once again found relative success on the road Jan. 26, faring well at the Pittsburg State Invitational.
The Bearcats entered the meet, which featured teams from every collegiate level, hopeful. They walked away with three school records.
Freshman Omar Austin set a Northwest record in the 400-meter dash with a time of 48.14. Austin also anchored the Northwest men’s 4-x-400 team that shattered the previous program record by more than two seconds, finishing with a time of 3:13.28.
The relay squad, which includes Austin, junior Marcus Klein, sophomore Caelon Harkey and senior Kevin Schultz, was a bright spot for the Bearcats over the weekend.
“The 4-x-400 was awesome,” coach Brandon Masters said. “We changed the order up a little bit. Marcus (Klein) led it, and he's very aggressive, so I thought that’d put us in a better position.”
After traditionally leading the relay off with Harkey, Masters opted to move Klein to the leadoff position, sliding Harkey into the No. 2 role. Slotting Schultz third and leaving Austin to anchor, the minor lineup change provided an increased spark for the relay, pushing it to the Northwest record.
“Omar: he just closes,” Masters said. “No matter if it’s around people or not, he is going to fight. That kid is just a ball of fury around the track. It’s exciting to give him the batton. If we have a lead, or even close, Omar is going to bring it home. It’s pretty fun to watch him compete.”
On the women’s side, junior Jordan Hammond turned in a noteworthy performance taking second place in the women’s 400-meter dash with a time of 55.76. The time was provisionally qualifying for nationals, but Masters suspects Hammond is on the verge of something more.
“Jordan is going to have a big breakthrough,” Masters said. “That’s a fast time for her … (it’s) just off her lifetime personal record and Northwest record that she owns, but she’s not finishing races quite right. When she gets it right, it’s going to be spectacular.”
After the trip to Kansas, the Bearcats are in the midst of what Masters called a “work week.” Most athletes will spend the week in a lightened form of training mode. Masters plans on taking a small group of runners to the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational in Lincoln, Nebraska, Feb. 2 while coach Nick Gibson will travel to Notre Dame with a few distance runners.
“(We’ll) go up there (to Lincoln) with a couple of kids,” Masters said. “We don’t even know who all is in yet. Somewhere around 10 (athletes) probably.”
Northwest will send two distance runners, junior Karim Achengli and senior Brandon Phipps, to Indiana to compete at the Meyo Invitational at Notre Dame. Achengli set a Northwest record in the 3,000-meter race with a time of 8:25.09 at Pittsburg State last weekend.
“We expect them to perform at a really high level this weekend,” Masters said. “They worked really hard last week, too. Having Karim break the school record was great, but he’s going to run faster this weekend.”
Achengli, a transfer from Iowa Central Community College and a native of Adra, Spain, has quickly etched his name into Northwest’s record books after transferring last year. Gibson, who coaches the distance runners, said Achengli’s accomplishments at Northwest so far are just the beginning.
“Karim: he’s just a workhorse,” Gibson said. “You tell him what to do, and he’s just going to go out, and he’s going to grind away. He’s one of those athletes that you love to have. Karim knows his goals and knows that eventually, he wants to try to see if he can represent Spain in the Olympics. That’s a goal of his that we’ll continue to work towards.”