Team champions were crowned at this weekend the 2019 NJCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships!
At the end of the three-day meet in Hobbs, New Mexico, the Cloud County (Kan.) men and the New Mexico JC women stood on top of their respective podiums at the Ross Black Field of Champions. It is the third outdoor national title in a row for the New Mexico JC women, while the Cloud County men celebrated their first outdoor national title in program history.
The drama was palpable throughout the day Saturday as both team races came down to the wire.
Through 18 events, the Thunderbirds led the race for the men's team title by two points and the race for the women's team title by 2.75 points. If you're curious, both Cloud County and New Mexico JC have "Thunderbirds" as their nickname.
The 19th scored event – the 400 Meter Hurdles – swung the pendulum further in favor of New Mexico JC, but away from Cloud County. New Mexico JC scored nine points in that event to push its advantage to 11.75 over Barton (Kan.) CC, while Cloud County could only watch as Kenroy Williams handed the Barton County men 10 points and a 78-72 lead.
New Mexico JC all but iced its third consecutive title in the 200. That's where Raheema Westfall and Monique Grant countered the Barton County duo of T'Nia Riley and Christal Mosley. Westfall and Grant combined for eight points compared to Riley and Mosley's nine, which gave the Thunderbirds an insurmountable lead going into the 4×400.
Cloud County received clutch performances of its own from Dennis Kiptoo and Kwanele Mthembuin the 5000. Kiptoo finished runner-up, while Mthembu held strong for fourth, giving their squad 13 big points and an all-important five-point lead over Barton County.
Just like that, it all came down to the 4×400.
Since Cloud County didn't have a 4×400 relay team entered, Barton County could win the men's team title if it finished third or better in the final event of the meet or share the team title if it finished fourth. That's a position the Cougars probably wanted to be in if its presented itself as they had the top-ranked 4×400 relay team in the nation.
A false start by Barton County derailed any further suspense, deflating the Cougars and sending Cloud County to its first outdoor national title in program history.