NIACC opens outdoor track season Saturday

NIACC's Wal Khat will run in the unseeded University/College 800 at the Drake Relays on Thursday.
NIACC's Wal Khat will run in the unseeded University/College 800 at the Drake Relays on Thursday.

By KIRK HARDCASTLE

NIACC sports information director

MASON CITY – NIACC's Wal Khat capped off his indoor track and field season by winning the 800-meter run at the NJCAA national meet.

Khat now sets his sights on the outdoor season where he could become the first NIACC athlete to win an indoor and outdoor national title in the same calendar year.

He would also become the third NIACC track and field athlete to win two national titles. Anna Buenneke won the 3,000 and 5,000 at the 2011 indoor national meet and Tanesha Edmond won the heptathlon and high jump at the 2012 national outdoor meet.

"He's versatile – 800 and 1,500 and will run on the 4x4 relay team, as well," NIACC coach Curtis Vais said of Khat, who won the national indoor 800 title in a school-record time of 1 minute, 51.78 seconds. "He'll run anything from the 400 to the 1,500 outdoors. He could probably run the steeplechase, the 5K or the 10K but he'll concentrate on the 800 and 1,500."

Also for the NIACC men at the indoor national meet, the foursome of Blake Keller, Samuel Dean, Canyon Kuhlmann and David Carter placed 10th in the 4x800-meter relay in a time of 8:21.71.

Vais, who is in 12th season as coach of the Trojans, said he's looking forward to the start of the outdoor season, which starts Saturday at the Grand View Invitational.

"The last couple of days we've been outside and we've had some good practices," the coach said. "A lot of them mentioned it's a lot nicer being outside and running on an outdoor track."

Vais said both the men's and women's teams returned from spring break in pretty good shape.

"It's always nerve wracking when you send them home for spring break or the holiday break," he said. "They came back in good shape. They really did.

"We've had a couple of great workouts. I'm very encouraged that we will be where we need to be for the opening meet."

For the NIACC women, Keisha Gonzague, Cailey Weaver, Amy Fullerton and Kendra Schmidt placed 10th at the national indoor meet in the 4x800 in a time of 10:00.26.

"I'd say the 800 to the 1,500 will be our strength on the women's side," Vais said.

Weaver ran a 2:23.29 in the prelims of the 800 at the indoor national meet.

"Hopefully, she can stay healthy," Vais said. "If she can stay healthy, who knows what she can do.

"It's not that she's overtraining or doing too much. She battled injuries in high school, too."

After Saturday's meet at Grand View, both teams will compete at the Wartburg College Invitational on April 1.

The Trojans also have four other dates on their schedule in April in preparation for the NJCAA Region XI championships May 6-7 in Council Bluffs.

The outdoor national meet is set for May 18-20 in Hutchinson, Kan.