Senior Kevin Schultz automatically qualified for the NCAA Division II championship meet in the high jump Saturday during the Graduate Classic in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Northwest indoor track and field started off its 2019 slate with a fine showing at the Graduate Classic in Lincoln, Nebraska, Jan. 11-12.

The weekend brought with it mixed results for the Bearcats, highlighted by a number of personal accolades. Most notably, senior Kevin Schultz jumped 2.18 meters (7 feet 1.75 inches) in the high jump, setting a Northwest indoor record and immediately qualifying for nationals.

“It was just majorly a breakthrough to finally be able to clear the 7 foot (mark),” Schultz said. “That’s been a goal of mine for quite a while now and to finally be able to do it, it’s just kind of a relief knowing I can do it.”

Schultz, who competes in the heptathlon as well as the high jump, will alternate which events he competes in each week going forward in an effort to “preserve the pop,” as coach Brandon Masters put it.

Schultz cited the fresh-faced coaching duo of Masters and coach Nick Gibson, who replaced former coaches Scott Lorek and Emily Peterson last fall, as a contributing factor in his improved performance and his capturing of a program record.

“(Masters has helped) quite a bit,” Schultz said. “We just have a whole new culture shift going forward throughout this year. (There’s) just a much more team-atmosphere where we push each other every day in practice to be the best we can possibly be. When you have practices like that, it’s nothing but beneficial.”

Northwest’s trip to Lincoln was also accented by three noteworthy performances on the women’s side of the event. Juniors Jordan Hammon and Hiba Mahgoub placed first and third respectively in the women’s 400-meter dash, while junior Mercedes Isaacson-Cover took second place in the triple jump.

“They’ve pushed each other for forever,” Masters said. “They’ve been on the same team for a lot of years, even high school. They’re always there at practice pushing each other every single day. Those are our two ladies that we expect a lot out of. We’re going to put a lot on their shoulders this year, so it’s important that they continue to work hard.”

In all, Masters accepted the outcome of the Graduate Classic but was not overly happy about it. Despite the bright spots, Northwest did not perform as well as the coach wished.

“Well, you never know what you’re going to get post-Christmas-break,” Masters said. “We were rusty, which is understandable. The first half of the meet, I was not super pleased. Overall, I’d say it was a solid meet; I just wish it was solid with everybody.”

Next, Northwest will once again get to host an indoor event at the Hughes Fieldhouse as the Northwest Open awaits Jan. 19. The home-track advantage is something the Bearcats never got the chance to experience before the completion of the Hughes Fieldhouse preceding this season. Masters hopes the familiar grounds will propel Northwest’s performance over the weekend.

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