PITTSBURG, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College women's track and field team had a number of athletes step up over the weekend at the Region VI/KJCCC Championships in Pittsburg, posting four event wins and four new national qualifying marks en route to a second-place finish.
"I thought we performed very well. Everybody came and either set personal bests this weekend or were right near their personal bests. I was very pleased with the effort and results, as well," said Cloud County head women's coach, Ted Schmitz. "
Cloud County, currently ranked No. 5 in the latest United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll, finished with 120 team points, just behind first-place Barton (174), doing a large chunk of its damage in the field events.
Freshman jumper Grace Chinonyelum shined in her first taste of championship action as she won the women's high jump with a leap of 5-feet, 4.5 inches before obliterating her own school record and Region VI/KJCCC Championships meet record in the triple with a winning jump of 42'9.5 inches.
The previous meet record was 12.81 meters (42'0.3''), while Chinonyelum's topped her previous Cloud County indoor record of 42'1.5, produced back on Feb. 2 at the Husker Invite, by a full eight inches.
Chinonyelum, who also added a fourth-place finish in the long jump, earned Women's Region VI High Point Athlete of the Meet for her performance.
"When you set a record in this region, you'd done something pretty special," Schmitz said of Chinonyelum, currently the No. 1 ranked triple jumper amongst NJCAA female athletes. "Those are some very big marks. She prepared very well and hard a good week of practice leading up to this and hopefully we'll continue to see bigger jumps at nationals."
Williams, a Concordia native, cleared 11'6 en route to her Region VI/KJCCC championship, edging out Cowley's Thais Gomes, while Pokuaah cruised to victory in the long jump by breaking her own school record with a leap of 6.12 meters (20'0.7'').
Freshman hurdler Deya Erickson nearly added a win of her own, finishing second in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.48 seconds, which would have been the new meet record if not for Barton's Yoveinny Mota (8.47).
Cloud County also received a third-place finish from freshman thrower Takyra Hilton in the shot put with a throw of 43'8.6'', and sophomore Jatoria McGirt earned a pair of fourth-place finishes in the 60-meter dash (7.58) and 200-meter dash (25.07).
Both were national qualifying times for McGirt, the 2018 indoor national champion, in her first action of 2019.
"The girls that finished in front of Jatoria have three of the top five times in the nation," Schmitz said. "She's knocking on the door right there with. It's a joy to watch her run and her attitude is really good right now."
Freshman multi athlete Semaj McGhee also punched her ticket to nationals over the weekend, finishing fourth overall in the pentathlon on Friday with 2,564 points before turning around and earning a third-place finish in the high jump with a national qualifying leap of 5'2.8''.
"It was really exciting and rewarding for her to come back after the five events on Friday, qualify in the mutis, and then produce her best high jump of the year to qualify for nationals," Schmitz said of McGhee.
Cloud County will now get two weeks off to rest and recover in preparation for the NJCAA National Indoor Championships, set for March 1-2 back on the Pittsburg State University campus.
"We're very excited it's back in Pittsburg. We'll stay in the same hotel, it's a two-day meet and we're use to the facilities," Schmitz said. "We're looking forward to it."
Perhaps the one negative for the T-Birds heading into the national championships, though, will be the absence of sophomore thrower Avi Bulai, the No. 1 ranked weight thrower in the NJCAA at 62'1, as she is sidelined due to injury.
"We miss Avi. It's just one of those things out of your control," Schmitz said. "It was sad to be here without her and all the weight throwers were disappointed she wasn't here. They're all supportive of each other."