Natoya Goule and Sparkle McKnight helped South Plains College win two NJCAA outdoor national championships during their two years in Levelland.
The jump to NCAA Division I hasn’t slowed them a bit.
Goule, now running for LSU, and McKnight, now sporting Arkansas colors, each helped their teams advance to the finals of the women’s 1,600-meter relay on Thursday’s day two of the NCAA outdoor championships in Eugene, Ore.
McKnight ran second leg on a Lady Razorbacks team that won its semifinal heat in 3 minutes, 30.45 seconds. Goule anchored a Lady Tigers team that snared the eighth and last spot in Saturday’s finals with a 3:32.12, good for fourth in their heat.
The day before, Goule and McKnight both advanced to finals in individual events, Goule in the 800 meters and McKnight in the 400-meter hurdles. Both of those finals are today.
“They both are obviously very good,” South Plains coach Chris Beene said Thursday. “Of course, Natoya won indoor, so she’s probably the favorite to win outdoors in the 800. The 400 hurdles is really a tough event. I think Sparkle can compete for the top three or four spots, for sure. To win that thing, she’s going to have to run really well.”
Goule won the 800 in March at the NCAA indoor and is ranked No. 1 again. Her best time during the outdoor season — 2:00.76 — is nearly a full second faster than the second-best in the NCAA, putting her in good position to win two titles during her first year in Division I.
“Obviously, we’d be elated,” Beene said. “But in my mind it would be somewhat expected, just because I know how talented she is. She’s pretty amazing. I won’t be surprised if she runs under 2 minutes in the finals.”
Arkansas’ men, with South Plains ex Anton Kokorin handling the second leg, also won their semifinal heat of the 1,600 relay Thursday in 3:04.00.
Thursday was the second of four days of competition at the NCAA outdoor. A day after Kole Weldon finished third in the shot, Texas Tech came up empty on day two.
Two of Tech’s best hopes — hurdler Katie Grimes and sprinter Cierra White — failed to advance. White’s 200-meter time of 22.98 was third in her heat and ninth overall, one spot out of the top eight that move on to Saturday’s finals. The ninth-place finish puts the sophomore from Philadelphia in position for second-team all-America recognition in the 200.
White runs in the finals of the 100 meters today.
Grimes ran 13.22 with a 2.8 meters per second wind for fifth in her heat and 15th overall. Teammate Le’Tristan Pledger was seventh in the same heat and 19th overall in 13.32.
The Tech women came up two spots short of advancing in the 1,600-meter relay. Senior Candace Jackson, junior Amoy Blake, sophomore Christen Rivers and senior Olivia Lewis finished in 3:34.06 for 10th.
Tech has five athletes going today: high jumpers JaCorian Duffield and Bradley Adkins, 400-meter hurdler Isaiah Gill, White in the women’s 100 and Weldon in the men’s discus.