Cloud County track and field teams qualify 34 athletes for NJCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships

Cloud County sophomore Ariel St. John is ranked No. 4 in the women's 800-meter run entering the weekend
Cloud County sophomore Ariel St. John is ranked No. 4 in the women's 800-meter run entering the weekend

CONCORDIA, Kansas — The open parking spaces and quietness throughout the Cloud County Community College campus suggests it's summer break. At least for most students.

But work remains for members of the Cloud County track and field teams as the T-Birds gear up for the NJCAA National Outdoor Track and Field Championships, set for this Thursday through Saturday in El Dorado, Kansas.

Cloud County, which enters the weekend ranked No. 3 on the men's side and No. 7 in the women's USTFCCCA poll, will be sending a total of 34 student-athletes — 20 men and 14 females — to the Butler Community College campus, all eyeing a podium finish and national title.

"We've got enough athletes qualified that, if we can get the jobs done, we could score enough points to be up in that trophy count," said Cloud County head men's coach, Harry Kitchener. "I think we have a shot at being in that top three if things go right."

The men's team will look to do the bulk of its scoring in the middle distance, long distance and relay races. Sophomore distance runner Moses Dirane, the defending national champion in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 9:18.99, will be one of the many T-Birds who will be at the center of the team's push.

Dirane will try to defend his championship in the steeplechase, alongside his teammate and last year's national runner up Thobile Mosito. He'll also compete in the 1,500-meter run (ranked No. 5), 5,000-meter run (ranked No. 18), and run a leg on the men's 4X800-meter relay team of Longins Kouri, Omari Miller and Stephen Marindich that is currently ranked No. 1 in the country.

Sophomore thrower Gabbreil Harris headlines a strong group of throwers that will be representing the Cloud County women's team as she heads into the national meet ranked No. 1 in the discus (171'7), an event won last season by Cloud County alumnus and current University of Minnesota star, Nayoka Clunis.

Harris, and freshman teammate Avi Bulai, also figures to be in the hunt for a national title in the hammer throw event. Harris is ranked No. 2 going into the weekend and Bulai, the 2018 Region VI/KJCCC champion in the event, is ranked fifth.

The T-Birds should also be in the mix in the women's javelin as they have three athletes — Shanee Angol (No. 2), Carley Nelson (No. 8) and Falon Kickhaefer (No. 9) — currently seeded inside the top-10, and freshman Takyra Hilton is a threat ranked No. 7 in the women's shot put.

"All the throwing events are strong and we should hopefully have people on the podium in all four events," said Cloud County head women's coach, Ted Schmitz.  

The Cloud County men's team could make some noise in the javelin event, as well, as Kitchener said he believes freshman Jerrod Hoover, ranked No. 5 nationally, could be a dark horse this weekend.

"He threw 192 feet a couple weeks ago and last year that mark placed pretty high," Kitchener said. "Jerrod should be in good shape to do well."

In addition to the throwing events, Cloud County has a handful of athletes in prime positions to finish high on the podium.

Freshman jumper Kyle Alcine ranks No. 3 in the high jump, and fellow freshman jumper Peter Ackah goes in at No. 7 in the long jump and No. 9 in the triple

In the 800-meter run, sophomore Ariel St. John will look to improve on her seventh-place finish at the national meet last season as she is ranked No. 4 in the event. On the men's side, Marindich, who was a third-place finisher last season, is ranked sixth.

Sophomore sprinter Jatoria McGirt, this year's national indoor champion in the 100-meter dash, is another competitor who could bounce back onto the national scene this weekend.

After a late start to the spring season, McGirt put herself in position to challenge in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, and as a member of the women's 4X100-meter relay team of Ageonia Wilkerson, Myflore Methelus and Precious Posey.

The NJCAA National Outdoor Track and Field Championships will get underway at 9 a.m. on Thursday at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex with the first four events of the women's heptathlon and men's decathlon.

Cloud County will have four athletes competing in the combined events in freshman Nikki Kraaijeveld, ranked No. 5 heading into competition, and the men's trio of Robson Yinambe (No. 6), Louis Humbert (No. 7) and Tanner Brown (No. 16).

Live video for all of the weekend's action is available for purchase through FloTrack.org.

Cloud County national outdoor qualifiers

Women's team           Events

Shanee Angol              Javelin

Avi Bulai                       Hammer throw and discus

Gabbreil Harris             Discus, hammer throw and shot put

Carley Nelson              Javelin

Falon Kickhaefer          Javelin

Takyra Hilton                Shot put

Alexis Budke                Hammer throw

Nikki Kraaijeveld           Heptathlon and 400m hurdles

Jatoria McGirt              100m, 200m and 4X100m

Myflore Methelus          100m and 4X100m

Precious Posey             Long jump and 4X100m

Ariel St. John               800m and 4X400m

Thandeka Manzana      Steeplechase and 5,000m

Ageonia Wilkerson       100m, 4X100m and 4X400m

Men's team                  Events

Moses Dirane                Steeplechase, 1,500m, 4x800 and 5,000m

Thobile Mosito              Steeplechase, 5,000m and 10,000m

Stephen Marindich        800m, 4X800m and 4X400m

Longins Kouri               4x800m and 800m

Omari Miller                  4X800m

Darrien Lipscomb          400m and 4X400m

Peter Ackah                  Long jump and triple jump

Kyle Alcine                    High jump

Wesley Logorava          100m, 4X100m, 200m and 4X400

Lesley Mahlakoane        400m, 4X100m and 4X400,

Tanner Brown                 Decathlon

Robson Yinambe            Decathlon

Louis Humbert               Decathlon

Jacob Koelzer                 4X100m

Johnathan Spearman     High jump and triple jump

Thom Reynders              1,500m

Levi Armon                    Shot put

Jace McKinney               Javelin

Murphy Bavinga             Triple jump

Jerrod Hoover                Javelin