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Greyhounds getting set for nationals

ENMU track & field athletes will soon head to N.C.

 


PORTALES — Just like riding a bike, competing at a national track championship gets a bit easier with experience. Eastern New Mexico’s Marcus Parker, Kenneth Lloyd and Danee Bustos have been there before, but sophomore Kandace Miles, on the other hand, has not.

Miles (200-meter dash), along with Bustos (200), Parker (100 and 200), Lloyd (high jump) and the women’s 4x100 relay team (Miles, Bustos, Lateria Slaughter and Maijah Mathis) will all represent the Greyhounds at this year’s NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships, held next Thursday through Saturday at Charlotte, North Carolina’s Irwin Belk Complex and Johnson C. Smith University.

“Kandace had a super race this past Sunday at West Texas,” Hounds track coach Jeff Kavalunas said of Miles’ school-record 23.98-second 200-meter dash at the West Texas A&M Last Chance Meet.

“That was a pretty big personal record, and a pretty big breakthrough for Kandice. She’s made some pretty great steps forward this season. She didn’t realize her potential until now. Being her first time there (at nationals), it will be a little different experience for her. But, Kandace is a gamer and a tough competitor.”

While Miles may have to deal with some first-time jitters, Bustos, Parker and Lloyd are all making at least their second national appearance. Bustos, who will compete against Miles in the 200, placed third last weekend with a time of 24.16 seconds.

Bustos had admitted prior to the Indoor Championships that she’s actually a better outdoor runner. She certainly proved that this spring, but also having a little luck with her health made things a bit more successful for her during the outdoor season.

Thus far, Bustos has four top-three finishes in the 200, including back-to-back wins at the first two meets of the outdoor season. In late March, Bustos opened the season with a 24.88-second performance at the ENMU Open, before topping that a couple weeks later at the West Texas A&M Classic with a 24.15-second outing.

“She’s been really healthy,” Kavalunas said. “There was a little stretch of fatigue with overall training, because I don’t think her training’s ever been this intense before. The (Lone Star Conference) meet was pretty tiring — she did the 200, 400, 4x100 and high jump. But she recovered and overcame that wall, and now we’ve gotten her more rest.”

That rest will certainly be key for Bustos, as herself, Miles, Slaughter and Mathis will all compete in the women’s 4x100 relay. The 4x100 team has had some strong outings of late, after taking the Abilene Christian Oliver Jackson Twilight Meet (45.96 seconds), before a second at the LSC Championships (:45.93) and a third at the Last Chance Meet on Sunday (:46.14).

Miles will be the anchor, while Bustos will be either the second or third leg. “Lateria will be leading it off, while Maijah was one of our top 100-meter short sprinters,” Kavalunas said of Slaughter and Mathis. “(Mathis) struggled with hamstring issues earlier in the year, and we’re just getting her back. (With the 4x100 we’re) working on hand-offs and fine-tuning some things. But, the speed looks good.”

The men’s qualifiers are some of the usual suspects, including Lloyd and Parker. Lloyd, who struggled to crack the seven-foot high jump mark for most of the indoor season, has managed to consistently be a top-three performer during the outdoor season, despite once again not being able to hit seven feet until late in the year.

Lloyd’s three meet victories (ENMU, New Mexico Junior College and Oliver Jackson) were all jumps of 6-9 or less. Meanwhile, a 6-10.75 at the Texas Relays forced him to settle for a still-impressive second place.

However, Lloyd, had an outstanding performance at the LSC Championships a couple weeks back to earn another second-place finish, as this time, he would not be denied the seven-foot mark. Lloyd recorded a 7-0.25, before following that up last Sunday with another near-seven-foot jump of 6-11.5 at West Texas, for yet another second-place finish.

“K.J. in high jump struggled earlier in the outdoor season, when the weather was a little more inconsistent,” Kavalunas said. “But he’s gotten his jumps back the last couple of meets, and he’s starting to do more seven-plus. Going into nationals and looking at the bar at 7-1 won’t be anything new for him.”

Parker recently won the Cap Shelton Award for the LSC’s top Male Track Athlete of the Year at the championship meet for a second-straight year, after recording 21.25 points, thanks to victories in the 100 (:10.22) and 200 (:20.87).

Parker is currently ranked first nationally in the 200 (:20.43) and third in the 100 (:10.17). “We knew Marcus would be there (at nationals),” Kavalunas said. “His consistency is much better than in the past. He’s close on his (personal records) each week, and he feels pretty confident that he’ll be in the top spots next week.”

As for the training over the next week or so, Kavalunas said, “A lot of it is just staying in rhythm. As far as getting physically faster and stronger, they won’t get anymore of that with just 7-10 days left. But, it’s been a great season and it was a great season ending at the conference meet.”

 

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