Nine Trinidad State student athletes competed against the best in the country recently at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Indoor Track and Field National Championships held at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas.
Competition started Friday afternoon (March 8) with the Men’s Distance Medley Relay where Godfrey Chama, Dontavis Moore-Ford, Alejandro Salazar and Derek Holdsworth raced to a fourth place finish and school record time.
The quartet came into competition ranked seventh, but surpassed expectation due to some clutch performances. “Alejandro really came through for our team today on the 800 meter leg. He came in a little underprepared, but we felt he could rise to the occasion. He did exactly that in running a split substantially faster than his previous best time,” said Coach Lauren Masterson. “Godfrey and Derek did what we expected and also gave us some stellar legs of the relay. Dontavis battled through the 400 leg really well. These guys earned their All-American status in that race.”
Benadine Chelimo and Toni Moore topped off Friday evening, each with personal best times and podium finishes in the women’s 3000-meter run. Chelimo finished fourth overall in 10:15.18, while Moore finished eight in 10:28.22.
Coach Masterson praised the two runners. “I’m very proud of Benadine and Toni. I challenged them to take risks and be tough competing at the front of the race and they did just that. They never backed down and that shows in them finishing on the podium with their fastest times ever over this distance.”
Both ladies received U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-American honors.
Godfrey Chama started off the second and final day of competition by winning heat two of the 600 meter final. Chama’s time would hold up to be fourth place overall between the two heats.
“Godfrey is great at winning races,” commented Coach Masterson. “Having two heats of a final creates a unique situation in which just winning one of the heats may not be good enough to win a national title. Godfrey won his heat; his time just wasn’t quite fast enough to beat everyone in the second heat. Nonetheless, winning races is what this sport is about and Godfrey did just that.”
Moore and Chelimo doubled back in the afternoon in the women’s mile. Moore finished 16th overall in 5:26.61. Chelimo finished on the podium again in seventh place with a time of 5:09.81.
Riley Allen and Bailey Smith competed in the men’s mile shortly after the ladies. Both athletes competed well over the entirety of the race, changing positions many times in a competitive field. Allen would finish with his fastest time ever over the distance in 4:29.48 while Smith was right behind in 4:30.45.
The highlight of the meet for the Trojans came in the men’s 800-meter run where Derek Holdsworth and Godfrey Chama put on a dominating performance. Holdsworth would bide his time in fourth place before taking the lead with a lap to go and running away to a commanding victory. Chama sat in last place of the eight man field for the majority of the race before charging around the last turn and down the homestretch to out-lean third place by .16 of a second to secure a No. 1 and No. 2 finish for the Trojans.
“Derek and Godfrey have challenged our coaching staff in a multitude of ways with how differently they do very similar things,” said Coach Masterson. “Having two superstars competing in the same event can be a recipe for lots of emotion and competition within a team. Over the last few months Derek and Godfrey have grown together as teammates who push each other to be better each day. They talked about wanting to go 1-2 for a few weeks leading up to the meet. Godfrey made us all a little nervous but they both held up their end of the deal. I’m proud of their performance, but most proud of how they’ve grown together.”
For Holdsworth, the win was his third straight 800-meter title and fifth NJCAA title overall in the race.
Holdsworth was back at the track only 45 minutes later in the 1,000-meter run, an event in which he currently holds the NJCAA record. Leading wire-to-wire in dominating fashion, Holdsworth won his second national championship of the weekend and the sixth of his career.
Coach Masterson praised the national champion. “It’s almost anti-climactic at times watching Derek race. He just has a mindset for winning races. He was in control of the race from the very beginning and never let go of it. He had a fantastic weekend representing Trinidad State.”
The Trojan men finished seventh in team scoring with 38 points, ahead of many teams who brought larger contingents of athletes to the meet.
Iowa Central Community College took home the men’s team title with 90.5 team points. Barton County and Cloud County finished second and third in team scoring with 80 and 63 points respectively.
The Trojan women finished 18th overall with eight team points. Barton County Community College won the women’s team title with 118.5 points.
The Trojan teams combined to bring home 11 All-American Awards, three school records and two individual national championships. The teams will have a short break before starting the outdoor season Saturday, March 16 at the CSU-Pueblo Early Bird meet.