Lincoln women head to nationals as top-ranked team

The Lincoln men’s and women’s indoor track and field teams will compete with some of the best athletes in the nation this weekend when the Blue Tigers travel to Winston-Salem, N.C. for the NCAA Division II National Championships.

The Lincoln women, the No. 1 team in the country according to the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, are headed to the competition with some history on their side. The past four women’s programs who entered the championships with a No. 1 ranking went on to win national titles.

The Blue Tigers, who were the national runner-up at the 2013 Indoor Championships, are seeking their fifth all-time indoor title and the first since 2010. Over the past decade, the Lincoln women have finished in the top-three at the championships eight times.

The Blue Tigers are tied with Grand Valley State, the No. 2 team in the country, for the most entries in the championships with 19.

The strength of the Blue Tigers lies in the sprint events. Lincoln has four entries in the 200-meter dash, three in the 60-meter dash, and three in the 60-meter hurdles.

Yanique Ellington enters the championships with the third-best time in Division II in the 60-meter dash (7.42 seconds) and the fourth-fastest time in the 200 (24.01). Janae Johnson will also represent Lincoln in the 60 and 200, while Kimberly Bailey will be the third Blue Tiger competitor to run the 60.

Ladonna Richards, Juneille Barker and Shakeisha Miller will all compete in the 60-meter hurdles. They enter the championships ranked fifth, sixth and ninth, respectively.

Donna-Lee Hylton, a three-time Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Women’s Track Athlete of the Week honoree during this past indoor season, and Tamara Keane will represent Lincoln in the 200 and 400.

Bailey, Hylton, Keane and Lovan Palmer will also run the 400-meter relay, where they hold the fastest time in the country (3:44.57).

Monique Thompson and Twishana Williams will represent the Blue Tigers in the distance events. Thompson will compete in the 800, where she currently has the sixth-fastest time. Williams, meanwhile, will run the mile, where she is currently ranked 10th.

Thompson and Twishana Williams will also team with Hylton and Willomena Williams in the distance medley relay.

Lincoln will have three entries in field events, including Nickeisha Beaumont, a two-time MIAA Field Athlete of the Week selection. Beaumont will compete in the long jump, along with Miller. Jonelle Campbell will compete in the triple jump to round out the entries.

The Lincoln men, who are in seven events, enter the championships ranked 12th in the country by the USTFCCCA.

Leading the way is Michael Ashley, who qualified in three events.

Ashley will run in the 200- and 400-meter dashes after finishing the regular season ranked 14th and 11th, respectively, in each event. Ashley will also team with Winston Edwards, Roger Blake and Jermaine Blake in the 400-meter relay, which enters the meet with the country’s eighth-best time (3:17.12).

Romel Lewis, the defending national champion in the 60, currently has the top time of 6.66 seconds in that event. Lewis will also compete in the 200 after turning in the ninth-best time (21.86) this season.

Romone Hill will join Lewis in the 60 after posting the 10th-fastest time in Division II. Also competing as an individual is Jermaine Blake, who will run the 800 after finishing the regular season with the nation’s eighth-best time.

Lincoln finished ninth at last year’s championships, which begins today.

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