NSU Sports Information Director
NATCHITOCHES – The 2017 FloTrack men’s and women’s sprint class NCAA top 15 rankings just announced are brimming with top brand names in collegiate sports.
But sandwiched between No. 11 LSU and No. 13 Alabama is Northwestern State at No. 12.
It’s not unprecedented for the NSU program to stand among the elite in college track and field. NSU competitors have won three NCAA event championships, along with capturing 10 USA Track and Field titles, and filling three slots on USA Olympic Teams in 2000 (LaMark Carter, triple jump) and 2004 and 2008 (Kenta Bell, triple jump).
NSU’s 12-member sprint signing class, announced last month, caught the attention of the expert analysts at FloTrack, recognized globally as one of the sport’s primary news services. The top collegiate recruiting classes are being recognized at FloTrack.org.
Topping the sprint chart was Florida State, followed by Kentucky, USC, 2017 women’s NCAA champion Oregon, 2017 men’s NCAA champ Florida, Miami, Southern Mississippi, Georgia, Baylor and Arkansas in the top 10.
LSU, Northwestern State, Alabama, Texas Tech, and Ohio State completed FloTrack’s list of the most talented sprint signing classes. Those are based on a ratings system developed by FloTrack ranking competitors on their 2017 best marks in the 100, 200 and 400 meter sprints.
“It’s a huge testament to the young men and women we’re bringing to Northwestern State,” said NSU associate head coach Adam Pennington, who coaches the sprinters for the Demons and Lady Demons. “We’ve been able to attract them with the great tradition of track and field here, going all the way back to our 1981 NCAA champion 4×100 relay team in the days of (Joe) Delaney and (Mark) Duper, and how we have consistently produced nationally-competitive sprinters through the years, particularly in this decade.
“There’s an exceptional culture here and a great university and community to recruit to,” he said. “To be in these rankings, when every other program comes from an FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) athletic department and all but one other are in Power 5 conferences, is very exciting since it shows we are bringing in more athletes who rank among the best in the country.
“In our sport, we’re on a more even playing field with the brand-name schools than in sports like football, basketball and baseball. We line up against the Southeastern Conference and Big XII teams during the season, and then we’re in the same races with the ACC (Atlantic Coast) and Big Ten in the East Preliminary round. Our athletes have shown they belong on the national stage and the newcomers are definitely capable of continuing that tradition.”
Among NSU’s 2017 sprint recruiting class are a pair of transfers, Michael McGruder and Desmond Mapps, who will compete as seniors for the Demons next spring. Connor Wood is the reigning British indoor national champion in the 200 meter dash.
Other highly-accomplished sprint newcomers to NSU include junior college All-Americans Widline Lageroy and Courtney Willis and Texas state Class 3A girls 400 meter champion Diana Grandos.
Headlining the deep pool of returning talent for Pennington’s sprint corps are 2016 4×100 All-Americans Amir James, Micah Larkins and Ty Shilling, and Lady Demon stars De’Shalyn Jones and Natashia Jackson, who won a combined seven gold medals at the 2017 Southland Conference Outdoor Championships as NSU swept the sprints and relays.