With freshman Isaac Grimes leading the way by coming off the injured list to exceed his previous best by more the nine inches and finish sixth in the long jump, the Chadron State College track and field program had plenty to celebrate at the NCAA Division II National Indoor Championships at Pittsburg, Kan., last weekend.
Grimes, who was unable to compete at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference’s Indoor Championships two weeks earlier because of a tight hamstring, definitely made up for lost time at the national meet. His psyche went from deep disappointment to high elation.
He’d gone to the national meet ranked 17th in the nation, near the bottom of the long jump qualifiers, and became an All-American.
Grimes matched his career high of 23-11 ¾ on his first jump last Friday afternoon, then went 24-3 and 24-3 ¾ during ensuing jumps in the preliminaries. That put him in seventh place entering the finals.
The best was yet to come.
When the finals opened, the Rancho Verde (Calif.) High School graduate went 24-3 ½ on his first jump, then popped the big one, going 24-9. His last jump measured 24-1 ½, still longer than any of his regular season marks.
No Chadron State long jumper has ever gone farther than Grimes’ 24-9 leap except Damarcus Simpson, who placed second at the national indoor meets in both 2015 and 2016 by going 25-4 ½ and 25-11, respectively.
Jourdin Holden’s jump of 24-8 ¼ in 2007 had been third on the Eagles’ all-time indoor list prior to last weekend. Holden finished seventh in the long jump at nationals that year with a mark of 23-9.
The Eagles’ Lanar Newman also placed fifth in the men’s long jump in 2011 by going 23-6 ¼.
Chadron State coach Riley Northrup said Grimes had “a dream meet.”
"It doesn't matter what stage you are competing on. A day like he had at nationals comes around only once in a long while,” Northrup said. “I couldn't be happier for him.”
As successful as Grimes was in the long jump, Northrup said he believes his freshman standout may have as much or more potential in the triple jump. He also ran the 400 in 49.24 seconds the only time he entered the event this season.
Chadron State’s other national qualifiers were weight throwers Ashton Hallsted of Casper and Ashlyn Hanson of Seward.
Northrup said he also was proud of them, pointing out that they nearly matched their career bests, a goal of every athlete who competed at nationals.
They went to Pittsburg 15th and 16th among the national qualifiers with throws of 60-5 ¼ and 60-3 ¾, respectively. Also late Friday afternoon at the same time Grimes was long jumping, Hallsted hit 59-10 ¼ to finish 11th and Hanson hit 58-11 ½ to wind up 13th.
Hallsted’s placing allowed her to receive Second-Team All-American laurels, something the NCAA instituted two years ago, so all athletes placing among the top 12 in their events at the national meet are recognized.
“Finishing in the top 12 nationally is doing really well and deserves special recognition,” Northrup noted.
Previous CSC athletes who have received this honor are Zerek Jones in the 800 meters indoors in 2016 and Alejandro Garcia in the 1500 outdoors last spring.