Northwest indoor track and field capped off its season with a visit to Pittsburg, Kansas, to compete in the NCAA Indoor National Championship March 7-8.
The Bearcats, who sent seven athletes to the meet, brought home mixed results.
Similar to much of the regular season, the trip was highlighted by senior athlete Kevin Schultz. Schultz, who competed in the high jump, heptathlon and was part of the men’s 4-x-400 relay team, accounted for 14 of Northwest’s 15 points over the weekend. The men’s squad took 17th place overall out of 83 teams.
“Well, he did his job,” coach Brandon Masters said of Schultz. “I think that’s a big thing, is he did his job. That’s experience; that’s being a fifth-year senior. The other guys didn’t quite do their job.”
In doing his part, Schultz took second place in the high jump and grabbed third place in the heptathlon after losing the tiebreaker for second place. The senior earned an All-America performance for his showing in Pittsburg.
“Kevin’s the man,” Masters said. “That’s what he’s been doing. It’s pretty impressive when you can go and do the multi, four events including the high jump, and then come back an hour later and still get second in the high jump. (It was) a pretty great competition for him.”
While Schultz served as a bright spot, the Bearcats underperformed in other areas. Freshman standout Omar Austin, who led Northwest to a strong finish at the MIAA Championships meet Feb. 24, placed eighth in the men’s 400-meter race with a time of 47.70 after running a 47.26 at the conference meet.
“Omar was in position, but then, you know, just racing inexperience in both the prelims and the finals,” Masters said. “We thought he was going to get away, and it didn’t quite work for him. He got shoved pretty hard and still finished, but finished pretty slowly when you get shoved two different times.”
Master said much of Austin’s difficulties stemmed from his size, which comes into play more in the confines of an indoor track than it would during the outdoor season.
“He’s not a big guy,” Masters said. “(In the) indoor 400-meter, you don’t stay in your lanes. (It was) the first time he’s ever had to do that, and Omar’s not a big guy, so he needs to learn how to race a little bit smarter and stay out of the way of some of those guys that are bigger than him.”
Masters said to remedy the racing woes Austin experienced at nationals, the freshman — who Masters called “the fastest freshman in the country” earlier in the season — could just run faster.
“He’s just got to run faster,” Masters said. “If you’re in the lead by five meters, you don’t get pushed, do you?”
Despite Austin’s somewhat disappointing finish in the 400-meter race and the 4-x-400 team’s 11th place finish in the relay, Masters was still pleased with the team’s overall performance. Junior Marcus Klein took 13th in the men’s long jump with a jump of 7.22 meters while junior Karim Achengli placed 9th in the 5,000-meter run.
On the women’s side, junior Jordan Hammond competed in the pentathlon, where she took 10th place, and junior Mercedes Isaacson-Cover finished 13th in the triple jump.
“Obviously, scoring what we did with 15 points and finishing 17th at nationals is a big deal,” Masters said. “It wasn’t quite good enough for us, we know we dropped the ball on a few things and felt like we could have been a top-10 team at the end of this indoor season, but didn’t get there. But 17th is pretty darn good.”