Northwest track and field shined in the program’s first-ever indoor home meet, the Mel Tjeerdsma Classic Dec. 7-8 at the Carl and Cheryl Hughes Fieldhouse.
With nine NCAA provisional marks and one new school record, Northwest set a high standard for the remainder of the season. Head coach Brandon Masters was pleased with the energy and excitement he saw from the entire meet and from his team.
“Based on energy and based on how the team came together cheering for each other, I felt really good about that,” Masters said. “I know we had a ton of personal bests and quite a few provisionals for nationals. Overall, I could not be happier for the first meet, I thought every kid came in and worked hard for this team.”
The two-day meet started with the multi-events portion in day one. Men’s heptathlon and women’s pentathlon both had NCAA provision marks hit by Bearcats. Junior Jordan Hammond finished the pentathlon with 3520 points, good enough for second place and a provisional mark in her first-ever pentathlon.
A provisional mark set by Hammond offered a high bar of expectations for the rest of the meet, but fellow junior Karim Achengli raised it a few notches higher in his first place 5,000-meter run. Achengli ran not only an NCAA provisional mark of 14:13.09, but a program record for the indoor 5,000.
Previously the record was held by former Bearcat Brad Ortmeier, who ran a 14:25.77 in 1987. In the process of achieving the school record, Achengli beat out two runners who bested him less than a week earlier at the NCAA Championships for cross country Dec. 1.
Achengli finished 38th at the championship meet and said winning the 5,000 meter was big after his performance at nationals.
“Everything is proven know,” Achengli said. “I could have done better at cross country, for me it is an award. I have proven that I am able to be in the top 10 in cross country and it is a matter of circumstances.”
After a long cross country season for Achengli, the strong start to indoor season gives assistant coach Nick Gibson confidence moving forward.
“I’ve had a lot of confidence in Karim to begin with, but with some fresher legs and stuff like that he could be flirting close to breaking 14 minutes in the 5K,” Gibson said. “After a long season, it is good to see how he ran here. He came up to me after the race and said, ‘Coach, I’m tired I need a break,’ and I said, ‘You earned it, buddy.’”
In a photo finish, Achengli beat Missouri Southern’s Gidieon Kimutai by .08 seconds to take first place. After the thrilling finish to the 5,000-meter run, everyone quickly made their way to the high jump area, where senior Kevin Schultz was polishing off an impressive start to his heptathlon.
Schultz cleared a provisional mark of 2.09 meters (6 feet 10.25 inches) to win the heptathlon high jump. The crowd formed to watch him attempt 2.12 meters (6 feet 11.5 inches) which would have tied him for the program record.
After scratching all three attempts Schultz recognized the start he was able to achieve.
“I think we all needed this competition just to get going with where we are at in our training,” Schultz said. “We just needed to get a feel of the adrenaline that we don’t get at practice. It (adrenaline) fueled me for high jump, I was jacked and didn’t quite get the mark I wanted to, but it made me excited about the pop I have this year.”
Through four of the seven events in the heptathlon, Schultz led the way followed by fellow Bearcat junior Marcus Klein. Schultz and Klein would carry that momentum into day two of the meet and finish the heptathlon with the top two places.
Schultz scored 5,189 points and Klein totaled 4,813, both high enough to hit provisional marks. The success continued into the individual events as the provisional marks and times piled up. On the men’s side sophomore, Caelon Harkey qualified in the 400-meter dash with his second-place time of 48.49.
The only runner to best Harkey was Kenny Bednarek from Indian Hills, who ran a collegiate-leading (any level) time of 45.93. This time would have qualified Bednarek for last year’s NCAA Division I indoor 400-meter finals.
Klein would snag another provisional mark in the long jump, with a second place finish and a jump of 7.12 meters (23 feet 4.3 inches). No other men hit provisional marks, but junior Cliff Nichols (800-meter run), sophomore Layne Worman (3,000-meter run) and freshman Ian Richmond (pole vault) all claimed individual victories.
For the women, three more provisional marks would be reached in day two, the first would be in the 400-meter dash by junior Hiba Mahgoub. Mahgoub finished fourth with a time of 56.38. The other two marks would both come from the jumping pits as sophomore Mercedes Isaacson-Cover swept first place n the long and triple jumps.
In the long jump, Cover landed a jump of 5.72 meters (18 feet 9.2 inches) winning by more than five inches. She was just as dominant in the triple hitting an 11.87 meter (38 feet 11.3 inches) jump. This time she won by more than eight inches and both jumps placed her second all-time for Northwest
Freshman Addie Palser would wrap up the wins for the women with her first-place finish in the 600-yard run crossing the line 1:25.85. With the first meet in the books, Masters is focused on what the next step is to prepare them for the MIAA meet.
“The biggest thing right now is working hard the next six weeks when they are away from here (Northwest),” Masters said. “If they (the team) can come back fit and do everything we (Masters and Gibson) need them to do on winter break, we’ll come back and run really well and be ready to push for MIAA.”
Next up for Northwest is the Graduate Classic Dec. 11-12 in Lincoln, Nebraska.