Paced by the men’s longest long jump in NCAA Division II so far this season, the Chadron State College track and field team got off to an excellent start Friday at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championships in Pueblo, Colo.
On his first jump, freshman Naishaun Jernigan of Springfield, Mass., hit 7.80 meters, which converts to 25 feet, 7 ¼ inches, for what proved to be the winning jump. The automatic qualifying mark for the National Meet is 7.68 meters, or 25-2 ½.
Jernigan’s jump is almost exactly two feet farther than his previous outdoor best of 23-7 ½. He placed second at the RMAC Indoor Championships with a jump of 24-3 and earned All-American honors while placing eighth at the National Indoor Meet by going 23-10 ¼
Jernigan wasted no time getting off the best jump of his life Friday afternoon. Head Coach Riley Northrup said Jernigan didn’t really finish that first jump as well as he might have, but it was still terrific.
The coach added that Jernigan’s second attempt was even better, right at 7.90 meters, but he was a trifle past the board when he jumped and it didn’t count.
Jernigan took one more jump that didn’t go well, then passed on his three of his chances in the finals because, in Northrup’s words, he didn’t need to jump again.
Placing second in the event was William Ross, a senior from Colorado-Colorado Springs, who went 7.70 meters, or 25-3 ¼.
The Division II long jump leader entering this weekend was Dhanushka Sandaruwan, a 27-year-old graduate student from Sri Lanka who attends West Texas A&M, at 7.72 meters, or 25-4.
Jernigan’s jump is just three-fourths of an inch off the RMAC record of 25-8 set by Chadron State’s Damarcus Simpson in 2016. Simpson also won the national title that spring by going 26-4 ½. Earlier in the season, Simpson set the Eagles’ outdoor record of 26-7 ¾ at the Olympic Trials on July 3, 2016.
This is the fifth time a Chadron State male athlete has won the RMAC outdoor long jump championship in the last six meets. Simpson was the winner in both 2015 and 2016 and Isaac Grimes won it in both 2018 and 2019. There was no college outdoor track in 2020.
Two more Chadron State long jumpers, senior Javan Lanier of Aurora, Colo., and freshman Morgan Fawver of McCook, finished sixth and seventh, respectively, with marks of 23-6 ¼ and 23-6 at this year’s meet on Friday.
The Eagles had other highlights on Friday. Fawver ran the 100 meters in a career-best 10.59 seconds to place second in the preliminaries and sophomore Brodie Roden of Riverton, Wyo., was first in the 400 meter prelims in 48.08 seconds. The finals for both sprints will be Sunday.
The 100 leader was Blaize Holland of Metro State-Denver in 10.46 seconds. Jonah Vigil of Adams State had the second best time of 48.39 in the 400.
In the only other final affecting the Eagles on Friday, freshman Shane Collins of Buffalo, S.D., placed fifth in the hammer throw at 176 feet even.
Another young member of the Chadron State team, freshman Hannah Christie of Alpine, Wyo., is fourth through four of the seven events in the heptathlon with 2,683 points. That’s just 11 points behind the third place contestant. The remainder of the heptathlon will take place Saturday morning.
Northrup said Saturday will be a rather light day for the Eagles, with most of their other stronger events and a majority of the track finals taking place Sunday.