By Gary Axelbank
BRONX, NEW YORK, February 27- Three Deep in the heart of Texas this weekend, Monroe's top 22 indoor track and field athletes hope to make their mark at the 2013 NJCAA Men's & Women's Indoor Track & Field National championships. The Mustangs' largest-ever entry in the indoor nationals features several top-ranked performers. As a team, the Monroe athletes will compete in a range of dashes, relays, and jumping and throwing events, testimony to the program's depth and versatility.
"Since we began practicing in the fall, this weekend at Texas Tech in Lubbock was circled on our calendars," said Coach Mark Goodman. "We'll be fielding a large team and a strong one. I could single out the athletes who have had some of the nation's best peformances as the ones with the highest expectations, but the fact is, every one of our athletes who will be competing is pumped and primed to make a showing for the royal blue and gold. They all can't wait to get there and do their thing."
For Monroe's best jumpers, deuces are wild - they're each ranked second in the nation. Sengalese freshman, Mamadou Gueye is ranked at #2 in both the long jump (7.83m) and triple jump (16.17m) and freshman high jumper Dennisha Frazier, from Washington, DC, is also ranked at #2 (1.68m). Sophomore pole vaulter K'don Samuels is ranked at #2 (4.80m) as well.
Mr. World, Columbian sophomore Francisco Escobar, will also be pole vaulting and freshman David Henry from Longview, NY will be in the triple jump.
As for the women sprinters, Westchester freshman Jessica Barrera has had a great indoor season, posting a 57.44 in the 400m, good for fifth best in the nation. Sohpomore sensation from the nation's capital Manaiza Kelley will be running in the 55m and 200m in Texas. Also, Monroe will field the #5-ranked 4x400 relay team (3:55:36).
On the men's side Florida freshman Khalfani Bernard (12th, 21.67) and Brooklyn freshman Christopher Lewis (29th, 22:07) will run in the 200m and Joel Johnson (8th, 48.59), also a Brooklyn freshman, and freshman Antoine Davis (12th, 49.03) from Newburgh, NY will compete in the 400m. Sophomore Brooklynite Earl Lucas (7th, 1:21:12) is entered in the 600m and Damion Walker (11th, 1:56:24), a freshman from Queens is in the 800m. Monroe's 4x400 relay team will try to best their #7 (3:15:43) standing.
Running distance for Monroe at the nationals will be Gambian sophomore Ansu Sowe (10th in the mile, 4:21:91 and 14th in the 3000m, 8:51:52).
Monroe's 2012 national champion outdoor discus thrower Lithuanian sophomore Tautvydas Kieras will be turning his talents indoors in the shot put (13th, 15.32m) and weight throw (13th15.50m).
"One thing that characterizes our team is its diversity," said Coach Goodman. "Our athletes come from a variety of backgrounds and places. But what they have in common is their love of their sport and their desire to achieve. Taking a talented team of this size to the national meet is the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people," he said, " and competing in this scenario is the payoff. We expect to not only simply be there, but to make our mark and our stand as Monroe Mustangs."