(Neb)-CSC's Grimes, Hallsted Ready For NCAA Indoor Championships
Con Marshall CSC Sports Information
CHADRON, Neb. -- Both Chadron State College qualifiers for the NCAA Division II National Indoor Track and Field Championships this weekend have marks that rank high on the pre-meet leader boards.
Sophomore Isaac Grimes goes to the meet hosted by Pittsburg State in southeastern Kansas with the best long jump and junior Ashton Hallsted has the fifth longest 20-pound weight throw. Both will be competing early Friday afternoon.
Grimes has led the D-II long jumpers the entire season. All six of his jumps at the Colorado Mines Classic in early December exceeded 24 feet, 11 inches (7.95 meters), the national automatic qualifying standard, and his winning mark of 26-1 tied for fourth best all-time in D-II.
He has not exceeded that mark this season, but has won the long jump at all four of the ensuing meets while going at least 25 feet at three of them.
His best mark last year was 24-9, when he placed sixth at the National Championships also held in Pittsburg.
Entering this year's championships, Grimes' primary contenders include Ryan Brown of Lincoln University in Missouri and Carey McLeod of Emporia State of Kansas. They have gone 25-2 and 25-1 ¼, respectively, this winter. Fourth on the list is Lawrence Russell Jr. of Barton College in North Carolina at 25 feet even.
Grimes also earned All-American honors at last year's DII Outdoor Championships by leaping 24-6 ½, good for fifth place.
Chadron State Coach Riley Northrup thinks his prize protégé will be hard to beat Friday if he's healthy.
Admittedly, Grimes, a graduate of Rancho Verde High in Merino, Calif., has a fragile left hamstring. He pulled it again slightly while running the preliminaries of the 60 meters at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Indoor Championships two weeks ago.
Since then, Grimes has been receiving treatments and is much improved, Northrup said Monday.
"I think he'll be ready to roll by Friday," Northrup said. "He worked out Sunday and jumped 23-3 with a short approach. We've been careful so he wouldn't have an injury that might keep him from competing at this (the national) meet. This is the big one. If he can go full speed, I doubt that anyone will beat him. He's got talent."
Grimes also was qualified for the National Championships in both the 60 dash and the triple jump. He scratched from the 60 because those preliminaries will take place while the long jump may still be going on. However, if all goes well, Grimes will triple jump Saturday afternoon.
So far in his collegiate career, the triple jump has been something of a sidelight for Grimes, even though he won both it and the long jump at last year's RMAC Outdoor Championships.
At this season's opening meet, he triple jumped 49-3 ¾ to break the school record he had set a year ago. The only other time he's entered the event this season was at a meet the Eagles hosted in January, when he hit 48-4.
His top mark ranks 11th nationally going to Pittsburg. The leader is Lincoln's Brown, who has gone 52-2. Martin Etsey of Findlay of Ohio is next at 51-4 ½.
Even though Grimes has cautiously been held in check to keep him from being sidelined for an extended time, he's already drawn much attention. This past week he was voted both the RMAC and the South Central Region Men's Field Athlete of the Season.
Hallsted is blunt about her goal going to nationals.
"I want to get on the podium," she said.
That means she hopes to place among the top eight in the weight throw and earn first-team All-American honors.
She didn't miss that by much last year. Her mark of 59-11 ¼ was 11th, earning a Second-Team All-American citation that goes to those placing from 9th through 12th in each of the 17 events.
The fact that she's thrown the weight farther this winter that she did last year gives her confidence that her goal is attainable.
Besides her career-best of 64-8 ½ (19.72 meters) that ranks fifth among the 17 weight throwers who will be competing Friday, she hit 64-6 ½ at the RMAC Indoor Championships on Feb 22 to win that gold medal by more than 10 feet.
A 2016 graduate of Natrona County High in Casper, Hallsted had never seen the implement she now loves to throw or the hammer that is the outdoor companion when she enrolled at Chadron State.
She had played on state championship and state runner-up basketball teams in high school and wrapped up her prep athletic career by placing second in the shot put and third in the discus at the Wyoming State Track and Field Meet.
Her state meet marks of 39-11 ¾ and 121-10 drew the attention of Brad Gamble, the CSC coach at the time, and she accepted his scholarship offer, even though she was already well aware of her family's heritage with the college. After all, she had great-grandparents who had attended Chadron State in the 1930s and '40s and her father, the late Todd Hallsted, was a standout wrestler for the Eagles in the early 1990s.
This year's favorite in the weight throw is probably Katie Monk of the University of Indianapolis, who has a Division II best of 67-5 ½ and has six more throws of at least 65-4.
Monk's teammate, Hilary Paxson, is second on the list at 66-8 ½, third belongs to Natalie Helenthal of Ashland University in Ohio at 65-2 ¾ and fourth is an athlete with a memorable name, Sunflower Green of Millersville in Pennsylvania, at 64-10 ½.
The way Hallsted looks at it, any of the top five or six could win the gold medal.
"It probably just depends on who's 'really on' that day," she said. "You can't get too uptight. I listen to music, try to stay cool and see what happens. I try to visualize what I'm going to do before I walk into the ring. I'm happy with my improvement this year and plan to keep it going."
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