RANDY SMITH, BUTLER CC ATHLETICS
EL DORADO, KS — The New Mexico Junior College women cruised to its second consecutive outdoor national title Saturday with a combination of victories in both sprints and long distance events at the NJCAA DI Outdoor Track & Field National Championships at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex.
The Thunderbirds, who have swept both the NJCAA indoor and outdoor titles the last two seasons, won by 41 points over runner-up Central Arizona and scored 139 points to win its fifth overall title (indoor - 2010, 2017, 2018) in the program's history.
"We did exactly what we needed to do, said Thunderbirds head coach Keith Blackwill. "I don't know that you ever expect things to go that way, because going into a national meet, you always figure you're gonna lose points sometimes where you figure you'll get them. We were really fortunate this time that we didn't really lose any anywhere."
New Mexico finished with four first-place finishes and took runner-up in three other events.
New Mexico sophomore Esther Gitahi was a key contributor to the T-Birds' back-to-back title, winning an individual championship in the 10,000-meter run (36:19.25) and helping the 4x800-meter relay team (Erin Sermons, Sharon Jerono, Teresha Jacobs) to a first-place finish (9:06.76).
Gitahi, who scored an individual runner-up 26 points at the meet, also took second in the 1,500-meter run (4:43.04) for New Mexico, giving the T-Birds a 2-3-4 finish in the race with Jacobs and Jerono placing third and fourth, respectively.
Thunderbird sophomore Shian Hyde won the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.25 seconds, while the 4x100-meter relay team of Trishawna Crawford, Octavia Cato, Britney Hew and Raheema Westfall won the event at 44.52.
NMJC freshman D'Jai Baker had a pair of strong finishes Saturday in the 400-meter dash (53.71, runner-up) and 200-meter dash (23.32, third), while Jacobs was second in the Friday's 3,000-meter steeplechase. New Mexico also had a pair of third-place finishes from Kristal Liburd in the long jump (5.95 meters) and triple jump (12.73 meters).
Central Arizona might have finished second with 98 points, but the Vaqueras had the most top finishes at the meet by winning five events. Freshman Nicole Foster swept both hurdle events, winning the 100 (13.53) and 400-meter (58.86) races, while Devia Brown (discus, 50.36m), Candesha Scott (javelin, 48.39m) and Cherisse Murray (shot put, 16.49m) took top honors in field events for Central. Murray also won the indoor shot put, giving her two first-team All-American honors for the season.
Iowa Central freshman Adva Cohen helped the Tritons to a third-place finish, as she took home three first-place medals while scoring 30 of the team's 95 points. Cohen, who was the top female individual scorer with 30 points, coasted to Friday's 3,000-meter steeplechase win with a time of 10:31.16, 44 seconds better than runner-up Jacobs of New Mexico.
However, Cohen felt she could have improved on her winning times Saturday in the 1,500-meter (4:42.34) and 5,000-meter (17:58.69) races.
"The steeplechase is my main event, so I felt comfortable with it," said Cohen, who will be running for the University of New Mexico in the fall. "The 1,500 and the 5K was ok. I also felt comfortable in those, but I know I can do better than what I did."
Cohen also anchored the Tritons' 4x800-meter relay team, along with Aaliyah Regg Wajid, Abeba Sullivan and Agnes Mansaray, as they finished runner-up with a time of 9:06.78. Iowa Central had another runner-up placing in the 10,000-meter run from Winrose Chesang.
Other female winners at the NJCAA Division I Outdoor Championships:
- 200m dash - Nercely Soto, Asa Miami (Fla.) 23.10
- 400m dash - Natassha McDonald, South Plains (Texas), 53.44
- 800m run - Andrea Foster, Essex (N.J.), 2:09.78
- 4x400m relay - Western Texas (Satanya Wright, Kimisha Chambers, Tiana Bowen, Mariya Hudson), 3:38.42
- Heptathlon - Fiona Barnes, Barton (Kan.), 4,366 points
- Hammer - Antonella Creazzola, ASA Miami (Fla.), 57.61m (189'-0")
- High jump - Abigail Kwarteng, Western Texas, 1.83m (6'-0")
- Long jump - Amanda Carty, Barton (Kan.), 6.25m (20'-6 1/4")
- Pole vault - Thais Gomes, Cowley (Kan.), 3.65m (11'-11 3/4")
- Triple Jump - Natricia Hooper, Essex (N.J.), 13.37m (43'-10 1/2")