For the past five seasons, the same men's and women's program has brought home the team title at the NJCAA indoor championships, namely the teams from Iowa Central and South Plains. New Mexico has the talent in the sprints and distances (20 top-10 entries to be exact) to get it done this year after losing to Iowa Central by eight points in 2016.
You can catch all the action LIVE on FloTrack this Friday and Saturday, but here's some juice to get you excited:
Sprint Battles: New Mexico vs. Monroe College
The women's 60m and 200m will be a showdown between Monroe College's Zakiya Denoon and New Mexico's Krystal Sparling. Denoon has the top seed in the 60m (7.33), while Sparling--a former SEC Freshman of the Week for Texas A&M--owns the 200m (23.61).
Both teams have the chance to rack up some serious points, too. In the 60m, Monroe owns seeds No. 1 and 3, while New Mexico has No. 2, 4, and 6. Sparling is the clear favorite in the women's 200m, however, as she is the only NJCAA athlete to dip under 24-seconds in the 200m this season.
The 400m features two New Mexico athletes in Christine Moss and D'Jai Baker, who rank No. 2 and 10 right now on the NJCAA lists. If Moss can win (she was third outdoors in 2016 and recorded 'no time' in the indoor 400m last season), that's another major victory for the Thunderbirds.
Esther Gitahi Could Score 30 Points Alone
New Mexico scored 107 points in 2016 to earn runner-up honors to Iowa Central. What NMJC didn't have in 2016 was a distance ace to lean on--much like Iowa Central and NJCAA great Leanne Pompeani last season.
Enter Esther Gitahi. She holds the top TFRRS marks in the 1000m (2:50.19), mile (4:48.93), and 3000m (9:22.48) this season. At the Don Kirby Invitational, Gitahi tried to hang on with New Mexico All-American Ednah Kurgat in a blazing fast 3000m race. She stuck with the pace for nearly five minutes before falling off and still ran 9:45. Her 9:36 (at altitude!) PB converts to 9:22 and is over 40 seconds faster than the next best competitor.
Watch Esther Gitahi battle New Mexico All-American Ednah Kurgat over 3000m:
New Mexico has a 4x800m relay and DMR that could score 10 points should Gitahi give them that boost.
Middle Distance Events Could Boost Iowa Central
The NJCAA indoor meet features a few off-events, like the 600m and 1000m. While Gitahi is the favorite in the 1000m, Iowa Central's Agnes Mansaray could steal her thunder and valuable team points. Mansaray is the top ranked 800m runner and No. 2 ranked 600m and 1000m athlete in the NJCAA. This weekend she will not contest in the 800m, however, and focus on the 600m and 1000m. While Gitahi is an accomplished distance athlete, Mansaray shows promise on the speedier side of things. With her 1:33/2:10/2:53 times, she could be the one threat to Gitahi's triple attempt in Pittsburg.
Based on TFRRS lists and entries, the New Mexico Thunderbirds are projected to score over 120 points. Besides Gitahi in the distances and their powerful sprint crew, the team boasts three of the top four triple jumpers in the NJCAA. Latavia Coombs, Tamara Moncrieffe, and Hanifah Abdul-Qadir are ranked first, second, and third on the entries (Essex CC freshman Natricia Hooper is not entered in the meet), and could put up 24 points on the second day of competition.
Perennial powerhouse South Plains should contend with Iowa Central for runner-up honors. With their amount of entries (22 top-10 entries), they could score around 80 points. Iowa Central has the most entries out of any team (23 top-10 entries) and could put up over 70 points, but they'll need Mansaray to upset Gitahi big time if they want to come close to defeating the depth of the Thunderbirds.
Watch the 2017 NJCAA Indoor Championships LIVE on FloTrack on Friday March 3, 10:30AM CT - Saturday March 4, 12:30PM CT!
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