ALBEQUERQUE, N.M. – Northwestern State All-American sprinters Amir James and Micah Larkins, along with Lady Demons’ three-time Southland Conference champion sprinter De’Shalyn Jones, compete Saturday at the USA Track and Field Indoor Championships.
The meet will broadcast on NBCSN, with the first round beginning on Saturday and the finals culminating on Sunday.
Associate head coach Adam Pennington, the program’s sprints coach, said the meet offers the opportunity for NSU’s athletes to compare themselves to some of the best the United States has to offer.
“This meet has some of the top participants from the USA,” Pennington said. “So for our three athletes to qualify, it is a pretty big accomplishment to compete in a meet that has such high standards.”
James, a junior, is returning to the USATF after debuting last year in the 60-meter dash, where he reached the semifinals with a time of 6.81. He thinks his previous endeavor under the bright lights should prove invaluable for his second appearance at the Indoor Championships.
“The experience I had last year was great,” James said. “I was pretty relaxed last year, but it helped me get used to running against professionals, and it helped me get used to the exposure that comes with being on television.”
While he may have experience with the meet itself, James will be in uncharted territory this year, as this will be the first time in his collegiate career running the 300 after qualifying for the event with a time of 21.08 in the 200.
But associate head coach Adam Pennington thinks the bump in distance could suit his All-American even more so than the 200, where James is a two-time Southland Conference Indoor Champion and the event record holder.
“This is a race he’s been wanting to do for some time now,” Pennington said. “He’s never run a 300, but I think this will work to his advantage.”
James agrees, saying, “I feel like the 300 might be my favorite race. You have a little more space and time to make a move, which means those last 100 meters will be crucial.”
Also running for the Demons is sophomore All-American Micah Larkins in the 60, who qualified with his Southland-best time of 6.68, 29th on the overall USATF rankings.
After Larkins just missed the podium at the Southland Indoors, Pennington thinks this is the perfect opportunity for him to bounce back.
“He didn’t have the conference meet we were expecting,” Pennington said. “So I think this should help him shake back and get some confidence going into the outdoor season, which is where he shines.”
Representing the Lady Demons in the 300 is Jones, a two-time SLC Indoor Champion in the 400. She also won the 400 last May at the Southland Outdoors.
Jones, a junior, qualified for the USATF with her Southland leading time of 54.29 in the 400. She also boasts the second-ranked SLC time in the 200 (24.09), which was clocked during her silver medal performance at the conference indoor championships.
Pennington thinks her experience in those two events will be an edge for her in the 300.
“Because she runs both the 200 and the 400, I think the 300 will be to her advantage,” Pennington said. “I wish the 300 was the race we had in college, because with her strength and speed, it would be very beneficial to her.”
While getting the opportunity to compete against the nation’s best is appealing, Pennington said there is an added benefit that comes with participating on the national stage: recruiting.
“I’ve spoken to a few recruits, and anytime you mention the USA Championships on NBCSN, there is a wow factor,” Pennington said. “For us to be competing on the national stage with NSU across our chest, against athletes they grow up idolizing, it definitely gives us an edge.”
*All listed times are Mountain Standard Time
Times of interest for NSU athletes on Saturday:
60 meter sprints (1st round): 3:00 p.m. (Micah Larkins)
300 meter sprints (1st round): 3:50 p.m. (Amir James)
60 meter sprints (1st round): 4:10 p.m. (De’Shalyn Jones)
Live results can be found by going to usatf.tv, and following NSUDemonsTF on twitter.com
The USATF Indoor Championships will be broadcast Saturday on NBCSN from 10:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. on tape delay.
Sunday’s action will be live on NBCSN from 5:30-7:30 p.m.