Northwest indoor track and field found continued success at home last weekend, faring well at the Bearcat Invite at Hughes Fieldhouse Feb. 8-9.
The Bearcats wrapped up the weekend touting a number of standout performers. Senior Kevin Schultz took home first place in the high jump for Northwest with a 7.025-foot mark. Junior Phil Elliott won the men’s heptathlon, while freshman Omar Austin took first in the men’s 400-meter race with a provisionally qualifying time of 47.62 seconds, good for a new program record.
The women’s team was highlighted by a first-place finish in the 4-x-400 meter with juniors Jordan Hammond, Hiba Mahgoub, Mercedes Isaacson-Cover and freshman Addie Palser combining to record the second-fastest time in program history at 3:49.92.
“We had some good performances as we continue to tune up for the MIAA,” coach Brandon Masters said. “The ladies decided to show up this weekend and start doing some things. … Some great stuff happened over the weekend. We’re really just starting to clean up and get ready for the MIAA (meet) here in another two weeks. I’ll be glad when that’s over; I’m tired of hosting big meets.”
In all, the meet marked another successful weekend for the Bearcats in a long line of them. Perhaps the most impressive Northwest athlete from the weekend was Austin, who along with setting the program record in the 400-meter race, anchored the men’s 4-x-400 team which placed.
In describing Austin, Masters called him the “fastest freshman in the country” in reference to his 400-meter time.
“The deal with Omar is he’s pure passion,” Masters said. “I’ve had to hold him back in so many different practices and make sure we’re working on the correct energy system that practice is asking for. The reason he’s succeeded to the level he has is one, yeah has talent, but now we’re really building all the energy systems necessary to run a fast 400.”
Masters has been high on Austin all season. The freshman sprinter has closed out the men’s 4-x-400 meter relay all season and helped the team capture a program record at the Pittsburg State Invitational.
In short, his speed is unparalleled. And according to Masters, he’s clutch.
“We’re just going to continue to see him shine,” Masters said. “When the spotlight is brightest, he shines. Man, he is just a big-time, big-game performer, and he’ll always, always gives everything for the team. He’s an amazing kid.”
As a freshman, Austin still has most of his collegiate career on the track ahead of him. Masters said he’s excited about where the 4-x-400 meter relay, led by Austin, could go over the next three years.
“Our 4-x-400 is pretty darn good this year, and I think we’ll be one of the top-five in the country if we get that opportunity (this season),” Masters said. “We only (graduate) Kevin off of that, who wasn’t a 400-runner before the start of the year really. I feel like that group is going to be the first of many outstanding 4-x-400’s here at Northwest.”
In some ways, it’s fitting that Schultz, who runs third in the relay, is proverbially handing the baton to Austin, the relay’s anchor, as he graduates this spring. Schultz, who’s been one of the team’s most accoladed athletes this season, has been impressed by Austin’s speed all season.
“Omar’s a workhorse,” Schultz said. “He does what he says he’s going to do every meet. He’s only a freshman but he doesn’t race like a freshman. He’s a student of the sport and gives it his all day-in and day-out and he will be the future of this team.”
While Austin may personify the distant future of the team, Northwest’s immediate future will come in the form of the MIAA conference meet. The Bearcats are doing everything they can to make sure the meet is a successful one.
“We’ve been training through a lot of these regular season meets because they’re just practice,” Schultz said. “There are only two meets that are scored and actually count. So we’ll be feeling fresh and bouncy for when it matters most.”