After claiming two national titles at the conclusion of the indoor season, Northwest track and field is set to transition to the outdoor season in the Emporia State University Relays March 23-25 in Emporia, Kansas, and the Spank Blasing Invitational March 24-25 in Pueblo, Colorado.
Northwest sent a school-record 21 qualifiers across the men’s and women’s teams to the Division II Indoor Championships March 10-11. The men claimed seventh place, and the women took 10th. Northwest athletes earned 16 All-American honors for their performances at nationals. Coach Brandon Masters said it was the perfect way to cap off the indoor season and begin preparation for the outdoors.
“It’s confidence,” Masters said. “We weren’t expected to finish as high as we were, even though I knew we were pretty good. … I think confidence isn't a problem with the ladies right now, but the men showing up at (nationals) really makes up a lot of difference for their outdoor season. It's exciting to see what the boys can do.”
Between the men’s and women’s teams, Northwest has produced a national champion in back-to-back outdoor seasons. In 2021, Hiba Mahgoub (2016-21) became Northwest’s first women’s outdoor track national champion in the women’s 200-meter dash. Last season, then-sophomore Reece Smith won the men’s 3000-meter steeplechase at nationals.
Junior Tiffany Hughey, who was part of the title-winning women’s 4x400-meter relay squad at the indoor championships, will be one of many athletes aiming to make it three-straight seasons with a national champion in the outdoor season.
Masters said Hughey, along with 20 other athletes who went to nationals, won’t be starting their season in Emporia or Pueblo, but she said she’s ready to transition.
“I don’t think it’ll be too hard because we’re in a deep part of our training,” Hughey said. “We've been training all year long for this. I feel like I'm fit enough and strong enough to go out and run well.”
The Bearcats were given more time to prepare after the Emporia State University Invitational — meant to be the first meet of the outdoor season — March 18 was canceled due to weather.
Even with the extra time, and with some athletes who haven’t competed since Friday Night Lights - Last Chance Meet Feb. 17, Masters said he plans on focusing on preparation rather than results at Emporia and Pueblo.
“We'll have some people perform well, but we're in a deep segment of training right now, so we have a lot of sore bodies,” Masters said. “I don't expect anything at all. We're just gonna go down and run. The beautiful thing about track and field is we do not have a win-loss record. We only have to be good when it counts, and, right now, it does not matter.”
In Missouri, high school does not split up for an indoor and outdoor season in track and field. With 31 athletes across the men’s and women’s side from Missouri, some athletes haven’t experienced two full seasons in a single academic year before.
Masters said the true challenge comes from getting athletes adapted to an indoor season rather than helping them transition from indoor to outdoor. He said the strategies in events change from one season to the other, and he said his coaching staff works hard to help relay that to the athletes. Hughey said her experience with two seasons has helped her prepare for the outdoor season.
“In high school, we didn't have an indoor-outdoor-type-of thing,” Hughey said. “I had no idea that I'd have to train for this long, but I've been doing this for like four years now, so I'd say I'm pretty used to it. I'm just excited to get back out there again.”
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