Shields cruises to 2 national championships


Photo by Photo courtesy of NAIA | Submitted

On March 3, junior Anna Shields placed first in both the one-mile and 1,000-meter events at the NAIA Track and Field National Championships in Pitsburg, Kansas. Shields won the NAIA Women’s Outstanding Performer and the Co-MVP Awards.

Written By Dara Collins, Co-Sports Editor

Six individuals and two relay teams from Point Park University’s track and field teams flew to Pittsburg, Kansas last weekend to compete in the NAIA Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championship.

Junior Anna Shields highlighted the women’s roster as she finished with two national titles and All-American honors. Shields finished first in the mile with a time of 4 minutes, 37 seconds, and in the 1,000 meters with a time of 2 minutes, 46 seconds.

Shields’ mile time marked a new personal record and school record and was only four-hundredths of a second off the NAIA record set in 2015. She also claimed a new personal best and school record after earning her titles in the 1,000 meters. Once again, Shields came close to clinching a meet record but came up 0.41 seconds shy from the previous record also set in 2015.

“It’s pretty incredible,” head coach Kelly Parsley said. “Not only did she run two school records and two personal bests but she was also named Outstanding Performer of the meet and MVP of the meet.”

Shields ended the indoor season nationally ranked first in the 800 meters, 1,000 meters and mile and second in the 600 meters.

Alongside the veteran track star, freshman field athlete Ana Benitez debuted at the national meet as the No. 3 seed in the triple jump. Benitez’s leap measured 11.68 meters, two-tenths of a meter shy of her season-best, and earned her an eighth-place finish and NAIA All-American honor.

“She came to Point Park this year and took a year off, so getting her back and her competing at such a high level after a year off of competing and doing better than she’s ever done is pretty impressive,” Parsley said.

The women’s team’s 4×400 relay and distance-medley relay also qualified for the national meet and entered at the fourth and 18th seed respectively but neither advanced to the finals.

The 4×400 relay team of Olukemi Olugbakinro, Erica Hanserd, Reba Bartram and Shields broke the school record and finished with a time of 3 minutes, 59.61 seconds, the only team to go below four minutes in Point Park’s history. The time earned the relay 14th place.

Freshmans Hanserd and Bartram were joined by two more freshman, Selena Canello and Alyssa Boyd, in the DMR and finished 15th in the nation.

Overall, the women’s track and field team finished the indoor season ranked tenth in the country, making it the best finish for a track team in the four-year program history.

On the men’s side, senior Jryi Davis also placed eighth in the country with a leap of 14.64 meters in the triple jump. The personal best and new school record earned Davis his third NAIA All-American accolade of his career heading into the outdoor season.

“He ended the season jumping a personal best and you can’t ask for much better than that,” Parsley said.

Senior Shaun Berry and sophomore Chance Callahan joined Davis in the triple jump last Saturday.

Berry also represented Point Park in the high jump, and cleared a height of 1.93 meters but could not pass the following height of 1.98 meters.

Parsley and teammates commended the jumpers’ coach, Richard Rouse, for the athletes’ performances not just at nationals, but throughout the season.

“He’s awesome,” Benitez said. “He’s really motivational. I said, ‘I want to get this far,’ and he was like ‘I believe you.’ He gives a lot of good training. I’m glad he’s our jump coach.”

Sophomore Xavier Stephens was the lone track athlete from the men’s team competing in the 1,000 meters. Stephens came up 0.61 seconds short of advancing to the finals and ranked 12th in the country, but he was the first Pioneer to qualify for the men’s indoor national championship in the event.

“We’ve been to nationals every year since we started the program, and this was by far our best showing,” Parsley said. “Not only that, but even the kids that didn’t necessarily place were running personal bests, so it was great experience for all of the athletes. I think they came back hungrier wanting to do even better next year.”

Davis revealed there is a lot of potential on the team after first-time national appearances and freshman ease nerves from the competition.

“We have a lot of potential, and a lot of little things that need to be tweaked,” Davis said. “It looks really well for the outdoor season with new people, a lot of people wanting to qualify for nationals, but right now our main focus is to win our outdoor conference, and I think we can do that.”

Parsley expressed his excitement to enter the outdoor season.

“We ended the season on a high note, and I think we’re ready to go and compete at our best and bring back another conference championship in the outdoor season,” Parsley said.