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Clayton State starts indoor track season strong

Clayton State sophomore Job Kemboi followed a strong cross country season with a good showing in the Lakers’ first indoor track and field meet of the season over the weekend. (Special Photo)

Clayton State sophomore Job Kemboi followed a strong cross country season with a good showing in the Lakers’ first indoor track and field meet of the season over the weekend. (Special Photo)

A pair of Clayton State track and field participants got off to a good start in the new season.

The Lakers travelled to Winston-Salem State Open held at the JDL Fast Track and hosted by Winston-Salem State over the weekend.

The Winston-Salem Open will feature a number of NCAA Division II schools including St. Augustine’s, Johnson C. Smith, Bowie State, Belmont Abbey, Lenoir-Rhyne and Wingate along with NCAA Division I schools High Point and North Carolina A&T.

Brianna Heilsnis and Jessica Matthews had top performances for the Lakers in their first meet of the indoor season. Making her college debut, Heilsnis, a freshman, placed second in the weight throw with a toss of 53-feet, one inch, setting a new record in the event.

Heilsnis had a successful homecoming in her first college meet. She is from Apex.

Matthews, a sophomore who qualified for the NCAA Division II nationals last year, placed third in the triple jump with a leap of 38-feet-3 ¼ inches in the event.

The Lakers also set team records in the 800-meters, shot put and the 60-meters hurdles. Matthews placed 13th in the 60 hurdles with a time of 9.64 seconds, while junior Maia Kuhnen finished fourth in the 800 run with a time of 2:21.89.

Kuhnen was sidelined last season with an injury. Heilsnis placed second in the shot put with a throw of 40-2 ¼.

“This is pretty close to the best start to an indoor season in our 10 years for the women’s team,” head coach Mike Mead said. “We were competitive in several events. Bri had a fantastic collegiate debut by smashing our indoor throws records in the shot and weight.”

The Lakers struggled with depth last season, but are expected to be better this season.

Sophomore Job Kemboi had the top performance, winning the 3000 run with a time of 9:11.43. He also anchored the team’s distance medley relay squad that placed second in the meet. Along with Kemboi, Charles Anderson, Rafael Salis and Marcus Lafluer posted a time of 10:57.95.

This past fall, Kemboi qualified for the NCAA Division II cross country championships in Washington. He placed 89th overall after battling a stitch over the final half of the race. The Kenya native qualified for the championship meet as an individual after setting a Clayton State record in the 10K with a time of 31:09.85 at the NCAA Division II Southeast Regionals in Charlotte.

“The men’s team, surprisingly, did not compete as well as I thought they might, but we have a lot of new guys and some have never run indoors before today,” Mead said.

The Clayton State teams will return to action on Saturday for the Emory CrossPlex Invitational held in Birmingham.