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Pair of second-best marks in Northwestern State history not enough to advance to NCAAs

NSU sprinter Natashia Jackson ran her two best times in the 400 this week, but she didn't...
NSU sprinter Natashia Jackson ran her two best times in the 400 this week, but she didn't advance to the NCAA Championships.(Photo Credit: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services)
Updated: May. 30, 2021 at 3:52 PM CDT
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NSU) – With a trip to the NCAA Championships on the line, Northwestern State turned in a pair of second-best performances in program history Saturday at North Florida’s Hodges Stadium.

But neither the women’s 4x400 relay nor Natashia Jackson’s 400 meters times punched tickets to Eugene, Ore.

Jasmyn Steels had already secured her NCAA Championships boarding pass in the long jump, and she couldn’t double her money in the triple jump Saturday.

But nevertheless, NSU coach Mike Heimerman appreciates the times and efforts displayed on the regional stage.

“It was a great day for us because these ladies gave it everything they had,” Heimerman said. “North Florida has a new track, and there were facility records set in almost every event today, so it was just incredible competition.

“It sucks when your best isn’t enough, but these ladies have nothing to be ashamed about.”

The 4x400 relay capped the evening as the Lady Demons flew around the track with a 3:36.83, nearly two seconds faster than their season-best to finish fifth in their heat and 15th overall.

NSU started fast with legs by Jackson and Janiel Moore.

Jackson kept pace with eventual heat winner LSU and handed off the baton in second place.

Moore was in third place most of her leg before the Lady Demons handed off around fourth place.

With LSU establishing a big lead, Diana Granados started tracking down the next group (second, third and fourth place) by the end of her leg.

Erin Wilson ran the anchor leg as all NSU sprinters ran a record split.

“Everybody ran their fastest of the season, but we might have cost ourselves a school record when the stick stopped on the handoff between the second and third legs,” said Heimerman, whose crew was three-tenths off the school-record mark. “But you can’t ask any more from these ladies. They really had a great day.”

Coming into the NCAA East Preliminaries, senior Natashia Jackson shaved nearly six-tenths off her season-best 400 meters and edged her own school record to win the Southland Conference championship with a 53.14.

Jackson blasted that school record Thursday with a prelim time of 52.55 and then turned in a second sub-53 clocking of 52.74 Saturday in the final at North Florida’s Hodges Stadium.

The rapid improvement wasn’t enough to send the senior to her first NCAA Championships as an individual as Jackson finished sixth in her heat and 18th overall.

Jackson appeared to have third-place Megan Moss of Kentucky within her grasp around the final curve, but Moss kept her pace down the straightaway to finish six-tenths ahead of Jackson.

“Speedy ran another great race and maxed out the entire race,” said Heimerman, who added that Speedy would have needed another five-tenths to qualify for the NCAA Championships. “She gave out right there at the last 10 meters, but she knew she would probably need to finish in top three of her heat to move on because there were so many fast times ahead of her.

“Speedy has had a phenomenal career here at NSU, and she’s planning on taking the next steps as a professional runner.”

Steels will not be pulling double duty at the NCAA Championships after not advancing out of the triple jump at the NCAA East Prelims.

After fouling on her first two attempts, Steels posted a 40-1.5 to finish 39th.

The senior, who is going to the NCAAs in the long jump, entered the triple jump ranked 16th after vaulting 42-7.5 to take silver at the Southland Conference Outdoor Championships.

“Jasmyn wanted to make the NCAAs in both jumps, but her heart and mind is in the long jump,” Heimerman said. “When you only have three jumps, you go for it because you know you’re going to have to make a personal record to qualify.

“She couldn’t find the same magic she had at the Southland Conference championships, but she’ll go out and compete for a national title in the long jump.”

The NCAA Championships are June 9-June 12 in Eugene, Ore.

NSU is sending at least one competitor to the NCAAs for the seventh time in the last eight seasons.

In the last NCAA Outdoors in 2019, Steels grabbed silver with a jaw-dropping 22-0.25.

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