NATCHITOCHES – Reigning Southland Conference Track and Field Athletes of the Week Tyler Smith and Grace McKenzie will headline a full McNeese track and field squad that will head to Natchitoches on Friday to take part in the Northwestern State Leon Johnson Invitational. The meet was moved to Friday from its originally scheduled Saturday slot due to the threat of bad weather.
Both the Cowboys and Cowgirls will be looking to build off their impressive outing last Saturday at the McNeese Spring Time Classic where they combined to post 40 personal bests. Northwestern State will also be the host for the Southland Conference Championship meet in May.
McKenzie is currently ranked first in the league in both hurdle events as well as the heptathlon, and in the top five in three other events. She leads the nation’s 11th-ranked women’s long jump squad as well as the 27th-ranked 100-meter hurdle group for the Cowgirls.
“I think these rankings are a true reflection of the hard work and long days we, as a team and coaches, are putting in and I know all event groups are fine tuning things still so we can definitely move up,” said McKenzie. “The fact that we can remain competitive not only at meets but every day in practice helps us be accountable and push to our bests. Having high rankings is great but that can be taken away at any minute. Knowing that we have a squad of individuals ready to do what it takes for the team to succeed makes it that much more motivating to do my part and contribute to the group’s success.”
With the recently released national event rankings, the men’s 100-meter dash squad is currently ranked 14th in the nation with Smith leading the way with a 10.27 time.
“We have more depth so they can push each-other and they all realize how good our 4x100-meter relay can be,” said sprints coach Vijay Saxena. “We have run four different combinations on the men’s 4x1 when in the past we just had 4 guys and maybe an alternate. This year we have seven guys that can make a great 4x1. We also have everyone taking care of business in the classroom. At some schools they lose student athletes to grades. I think we do a really good job here making sure they are successful academically.”
The men’s 4x100 meter relay team (Morgan Smith, Tyler Smith, Gared Brown, Tyler Syrie) is currently ranked third in the league, however, they are rivaled by the Cowgirls 4x100-meter relay team (Malaiya Jedkins, Aleyah Donald, Victoria Pierson, Taneisha Allen), who are ranked second in the Southland Conference. The relay teams both being ranked in the top three is a feat that’s rarely been accomplished.
“That’s a really big accomplishment for this group because this is a sprints conference,” said Saxena. “Having five in the top nine at the Texas Relays from the Southland Conference in the 100-meter dash shows how deep the conference is in the sprints. This group has really focused on accomplishing the short-term fundamental goals so they can reach that big goal.”
The Cowboys and Cowgirls will start competition at 10:00 a.m. with the women’s discus and the men’s shot put. Running events will begin at 1:00 p.m.
Live results can be followed on the McNeeseSports.com website.