Lions Track triumphs at Southland Championship with impressive performances


Haley Dupre'

Junior hurdler Olu Ogunyemi celebrates after achieving a personal best in the 110m hurdlers at the Southland Outdoor Conference Championships in Commerce, Texas. (May 6, 2023)

Lions outdoor track wrapped up the conference season as they batted through the Southland Championship at Texas A&M-Commerce. Heading for battle, the team arrived on Tuesday, May 2, to prepare and shake out before the competition started May 4. 

Day one of three kicked off with sophomore hammer thrower Katrine Olsen taking third on the podium. Following not long after, senior hammer thrower Terrell Webb claimed gold with a throw of 63.93 meters, earning the first points on the men’s side. Also earning points for the men was grad student Thomas Nedow, who secured the Lions five extra points with a fourth-place finish in the hammer throw. 

Progress continued as senior pole vaulter Lara Zupanc cleared a season-best of 3.70 meters, walking away with bronze. 

The day wrapped up as the competition moved to the track to begin the first set of preliminary events. First, junior Eugene Omalla crossed the 200m with a time of 21.14 seconds, securing his spot in finals. 

The Lions held their ground as five athletes competed in the 400m hurdles preliminary and all five of the men and women moved on. Hurdlers Indya Jackson and Esther Nwanze ensured their ticket into the final performance. This continued with Omri Shiff, Agerian Jackson and Olu Ogunyemi, who made Lion nation proud with their qualifying performances. 

After a restful night, SLU was geared up to face the competition. Starting strong on the women’s side, Kristian Jackson took home a silver in the shot put. Nedow returned to add a couple of points with a fifth place shot put finish for the men’s portion .

The Green and Gold moved to the track to conclude the final rounds of preliminaries. 

“I think the team performed to the best of their ability. Everyone worked hard and the season was good. It started in December and from the looks of where we started, I believe we came a long way,” senior I. Jackson said. 

Ogunyemi crossed the 110m hurdle mark with a time of 14.09 seconds, ensuring his return to Saturday’s final.

The times of 55.27 seconds and 56.10 seconds were enough to move I. Jackson and Nwanze on to the 400m finals. On the men’s side, Jamie and Eugene Omalla competed in the 400m preliminary. The duo advanced into Saturday’s (May 6) finals. 

The Lions finished the day with senior Javon-Taye Williams and sophomore Noah Kiprotich locking in their spot on the line for the 800m finals. 

As the Saturday morning sun rose, the Lions’ track and field season came to a close in the Commerce Lions’ Memorial Stadium. Locking in gold to start the day, K. Jackson stood top of the podium with a throw of 51.89 meters in the women’s discus. 

Sophomore Micah Miller focuses for his final throw at the Southland Outdoor Conference Meet. (Haley Dupre)

Also returning as conference champion, high jumper Slavko Stevic kept his title, adding another gold to his collection. Olsen returned to the podium to claim silver after clearing 1.77 meters, just short of her personal best in the high jump. 

The Lions continued eating away at the competition as Ogunyemi broke a new personal best of sub 14 seconds, truly earning his silver medal. Along with coming out on top, E. Omalla broke the new facility record with a personal best of 47.57 seconds.

Continuing through the day, the Lions made easy work earning podium finishes and points across the board. Williams took gold in the 800m along with Agerian Jackson walking away with silver in the 400-meter hurdles. 

E. Omalla, J. Omalla, Omri Shiff and A. Jackson continued Southeastern’s dominance during the 4×400-meter relay to close out the 2023 Southland Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships. They stopped the clock in the second heat at 3:06.48, which is a new facility record.

Their efforts gave Southeastern a championship-winning performance, a gold medal and 10 more points in the competition. The women’s team ended the three-day competition with 61.5 points, which was good enough for 8th place. As for the men, they scored a total of 100 points and finished in fourth place.

The Green and Gold will now await the NCAA East Regionals; the three-day competition will run from May 24-27 in Jacksonville, Florida, at Hodges Stadium at the University of North Florida.

“The plan is to let the team enjoy this moment. This is my first Outdoor Championship and it was nice. So there are some things that we are gonna fine tune. We are going to go home to finish strong with finals in the classroom and then come back and prepare for Nationals,” said Head Coach Michael Rheams Jr. on the conclusion of the season.