Croup’s Corner – Track and field a lock for good headlines

Written By Josh Croup, Sports Columnist

The winter sports season has been rough at times on several fronts at Point Park, but there has been and will continue to be positive headlines coming from the track and field teams.

We are past the most successful cross country season in program history and now move to track and field season, beginning with indoor teams that look to post their own historic seasons of their own.

They’re off to good starts and there’s no reason to expect that positive headlines full of broken records and national qualifiers won’t continue throughout the end of the year.

Another no-doubter: Anna Shields will continue to dominate her competition and post the country’s top times in her events.

The junior earned National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Women’s Indoor Track National Athlete of the Week honors last week after her second-place finish at Penn State. Last week was the eighth time in the last 13 months Shields was recognized with an NAIA National Runner of the Week honor across cross country, indoor track and outdoor track.

She might be in the running for the award again this week.

Last week at Youngstown State, Shields notched the top time in the NAIA this year in the 800 meters at 2 minutes, 12.33 seconds to qualify for the national championships. She also has previously qualified for nationals in the 1,000 meters and the mile, events that she holds the NAIA’s top times this season.

She was a lock for indoor nationals before the season even began, and last weekend she learned that she won’t be the only one traveling to Pittsburg, Kansas in March for the NAIA Indoor Track and Field Championship.

Even without Shields, the teams would still produce results that would put them at the top of the conference.

Ana Benitez jumped to a national championship qualifying distance of 11.63 meters in the triple jump, the second longest in the NAIA this year in the event and a new school record. The freshman from Plum, Pennsylvania came into the program with high expectations as a state-qualifying jumper last year, placing 13th at the state meet.

On the men’s side, the jumpers shined once again as they have been accustomed to in the past few seasons.

Jryi Davis made headlines earlier this year by qualifying for nationals in the triple jump. Senior Shaun Berry learned Saturday that he will join his teammate in Pittsburg at nationals after his 1.98-meter leap in the high jump.

He bounced back from knee surgery to earn his personal best jump at Youngstown State. He also set personal high marks in the long jump and had a good showing in the triple jump. Davis led Point Park in that event with a 14.23-meter jump.

Andre Lowery was close to qualifying for nationals in the long jump with a new school record jump of 6.77 meters.

Another man close to qualifying for nationals was Xavier Stephens. He’s been so close so many times this year and it feels like it’s only a matter of time before the sophomore meets the NAIA qualifying mark.

Stephens set a team record in the 800 meters Saturday with a 1 minute, 55.35 second finish, good for third place at the meet. The conversion made due to the oversized track at Youngstown State places him just outside the qualifying mark.

Their track and field teams are loaded with talent. The young program has risen the standards for excellence at Point Park and in the River States Conference.

With so many athletes pushing their own program records week after week and handfuls of others on the verge of qualifying for nationals on top of a conference championship meet on deck, there will be no shortage of good headlines coming from this program between now and the end of the year.