Last weekend's shakeup in the Top 10 sets up an exciting weekend in Birmingham, Alabama for the DII Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championship.
There are many familiar faces amongst the top five seeds. No. 3 seed Ashland is just a few years removed from a runner-up finish. Grand Valley State, the No. 4 seed, claimed back-to-back championships just three seasons ago, and No. 5 Lincoln accomplished the same feat right before GVSU. This year, there is a new top dog.The big surprise of the weekend is the nation’s No. 1 team. New Mexico Highlands will be heading to the championships on the heels of their first No. 1 ranking in the history of the program.
The team will be led by the coach of the year in the southern region Bob DeVries and Assistant Coach of the Year Patrick Johnson. All eyes will be on the Women’s Field Athlete of the Year, Salcia Slack.
Slack has had a highly decorated redshirt junior season. She is one of the more balanced athletes in the nation, winning four events at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championships while finishing second in two more.
Slack won the pentathlon, in which she is the best in the nation, as well as the 400, the 60 meter hurdles and the triple jump while tallying second place finishes in the long jump and shot put. Aside from the long-distance categories, there is seemingly not an event at which Slack does not excel.
The senior also set another first for Division II. Slack earned US Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All Region honors in seven different events, the first woman to ever do so.
While earning honors for the events in which she excelled in at the RMAC Championships, Slack earned her seventh nod as a member of the 4x400 relay team. Joined by Kristen Montano, Stefania Gyamfi and Velma Morant, their relay team is the ninth best in DII.
Earning the number one seed of course does not solely depend on one athlete, no matter how super human she may appear. Sophomore Shanice McPherson, a fellow Jamaican like Slack, also earned All Region honors. She defeated Slack in the long jump by setting a national record in the event.
Hot on the Cowgirls trials will be Central Missouri and Ashland who rounded out a top three that were separated by a mere seven points.
Central Missouri is led by freshman standout Erika Kinsey. Kinsey was named the USTFCCCA Women’s Central Region Field Athlete of the Year after a monster season in the jump events.
She currently leads all DII women’s athletes in both the high jump and triple jump while being top 10 in the long jump. The Jennies only have two participants in the track events, so they will rely upon Kinsey to keep up her solid performance.
Ashland will be led into battle by Jamie Sindelar and a bevy of All Region elite field athletes. Sindelar is coming off a season that saw her earn Midwest Region Women’s Field Athlete of the Year honors behind a nation’s best shot put mark.
She is joined by eight others who took home All Region honors, and all but freshman Irene Skinner (400 meters) were for field events. Should Ashland rise victorious, it will be in the field and not on the track.
Grand Valley State, the No. 4 seed, leads the field with 16 entrants. Seven are in distant running events and six come in the jumps. Does having the most entrants mean they can sneak past the top three seeds and claim victory?
“In order to score points you must have entries so we have that going for us,” head coach Jerry Baltes, the midwest region women’s coach of the year, said.
“Now we must focus on the process of competing to the best of our ability in order to score points with the entries we have. I think it shows the depth of our program across all event areas. We take great pride in being a well-balanced program. Our coaching staff does a great job of recruiting and preparing our student athletes to be ready to get the job done when the opportunity presents itself.”
Despite not being in the top five, all eyes will be on Adams State. The Grizzlies are the defending champions and just took home their 14th consecutive RMAC Indoor Track and Field Championship.
While they may not possess many athletes as highly decorated in USTFCCCA honors this season, they do have a team that has been down this road just one year ago.
There seems to be no hands on favorite heading into the weekend, however, it will be interesting to see how far the Cinderella Cowgirls can go. It should make for a very eventful championships in Birmingham.