Nationals MensThis weekend, May 15-17, 2014, at the NJCAA National Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Mesa, AZ, Southwestern’ s men’s  and women’s track teams continued the success they had during the regular season by turning in record breaking times and distances at the national meet.

Mel Mangrum, sophomore, led the way for the Spartans at nationals by finishing ninth in the nation in the discus.  That was just a few inches off of the medal stand and All-American status.  She just missed re-setting her own school record with her top ten toss of  41.23 m (135’-03”) for ninth place overall. 

Southwestern Head Track Coach Bill Huntington was elated with her efforts.  “Mel has been working very hard and it showed on Saturday.  That was a huge throw.  She was sitting in sixth place after winning her flight and we were hoping for a top eight finish, she just came up a little short.  Mel is headed to Chicago State, a DI college in the Western Athletic Conference.  I have a very good feeling she will be a great success there.”

The men’s 4x100 m relay got the Spartans started by running a school record 41.39 in the prelims to finish 13th overall in the nation.  It was a flawless race with the Spartans effortlessly hitting every handoff around the track on their way to their record-setting performance.  The four members of the squad are Bobby Neal, freshman, Kansas City, KS; Justin Martin, freshman, Kansas City, KS; Marquis Flowers, sophomore, Chicago, IL; and Theo Piniau, freshman, East New Britain Province, PNG. 

SWCC Assistant Track Coach Mark Evans remarked, “We knew they could go under 42, possibly under 41 if they hit their handoffs which they did.  They have been very focused in practice as of late and it showed.  It was an exciting race against the best in the nation and our guys were right in the middle of it.”

Theo Piniau ran a school record 47.68 in the 400 m for the Spartans as he finished 17th overall and third in his heat.  This was Piniau’s fastest time of the outdoor season after running a blistering 49.0 at the indoor championships in New York City in March. 

Piniau was excited about his effort on the oval.  “Coach Huntington and Coach Evans have been really pushing me to run the first 200 m of my race at a faster pace.  The guy in the lane to my outside had run a 46 so my goal was to hit the 200 m mark with him, which I did and that pulled me to my fastest time.”

The next competitor at nationals for the Spartans was Rhecie Lee, freshman, of Port Allen, LA.  Lee came into the meet looking to re-establish her own school record in the long jump but came up just short of reaching that goal. 

Evans had nothing but praise for the Spartan jumper.  “Rhecie has made so much progress since the start of the season, we could not be happier with her.  Because of her great athleticism we had her run in a lot of events as a well as high jump, long jump and triple jump.  She consistently placed high in all of those meets so we felt very good about her chances going into nationals.  She jumped very well and finished much higher than what she was seeded.  We really feel she could be one of the better jumpers in the NJCAA next season in three different events.”   

The men’s 4x400 finished off the year in great form running their second fastest time of the year, 4:18.73 to finish 18th overall.  The team was comprised of Rayvonne Brown, sophomore from Davenport; Joe Bierl, sophomore from Davenport; Ian Morrison, freshman from Omaha, NE; and Piniau.  This Spartan foursome had been on a roll as of late making the All Region Team at Council Bluffs while also winning the last regular season meet at Grand View University in Des Moines.