The buzz around Portland State’s track and field team says there’s a youth movement in effect, but the impressive performances of the team’s veterans seemingly say, “wait a second.” The fact that the majority of Portland State’s track and field athletes are either freshmen or sophomores causes many to look towards the future for success. However, the juniors and seniors of this team have provided their fair share of successful performances already this season, putting the youth movement temporarily on hold and keeping the attention on the here and now.
This season has been filled with personal records, school records and even Big Sky top marks. So far the Vikings have set a total of 11 school records in only three meets, which is definitely an impressive feat for a team that was supposed to be one of the future.
“Each meet we have been to we have set school records, which is obviously always a good thing,” head coach Kebba Tolbert said. “Our older kids and captains are doing a very good job leading and setting the right example with their intensity. We have a big young group of kids on our team.”
The team may be overcrowded with younger athletes but the veterans are certainly making their presence felt both during practice and competition. One of the many veteran competitors for the Viking track and field team that is leading the way with both her performances and expertise is senior multi-event athlete Kerry-Ann Blackwood.
“Going from being a junior to a senior has been a big difference,” Blackwood said. “The younger girls really look up to Gayle [Imran-Sideris] and I. It is really hard to lay on the pressure and have these younger athletes understand how exciting and fun Big Sky competition really is.”
Blackwood is in her fourth year with Portland State and has enjoyed a successful season so far. She earned Big Sky Track and Field Athlete of the Week honors for her performance two weeks ago. At the New Mexico Invitational Blackwood made Big Sky history with her blazing time of 8.78 seconds, which is the ninth best 60-meter hurdles time in Big Sky Conference history. The next weekend at the University of Washington Indoor Invitational she finished third in the long jump competition with a remarkable jump of 5.97 meters.
“My season started rough,” Blackwood said. “It wasn’t that I needed to work harder, it was just that I was still in last year’s mental state. My mental state last year was, ‘OK then,’ but for this season it needed to change. Now I am just ready to compete and show everyone what I have.”
Another Portland State athlete that has been having a great season is senior sprinter and jumper Gayle Imran-Sideris. Like Blackwood, Imran-Sideris is in her fourth season for the Vikings. She has created quite a legacy during this time with three extremely productive and successful seasons, including a nod as Big Sky Female Field Athlete of the Meet at the Big Sky Indoor Championships last season. Imran-Sideris is working on another successful season already this year. After her incredible performance at the New Mexico Invitational she now owns the Portland State record of 41 feet and 4.5 inches for the triple jump.
“She broke our school record when she jumped the sixth or seventh best jumps in Big Sky history last weekend in Albuquerque. She just missed qualifying for the national meet by two inches. A young woman [Monique Young] from Northern Arizona University is jumping really well right now, setting up a really nice battle for the end of February,” Tolbert said.
On the men’s side, senior distance-runner and cross-country competitor Nate Boyer has made his presence felt this season, especially with his antics at the University of Washington Indoor Invitational when he ran a blistering 1:51.56 school record in the 800 meter.
“Nate broke the school record by a second. For him to break that record this time of year, in only his second 800 of the season, is really encouraging. That means that if he stays healthy he could get some really nice things done later in the season,” Tolbert said.
Boyer also earned another school record with 1:19.48 in the 600-meter event at the Dempsey Indoor Preview.
“This season is going very well for me,” Boyer said. “We may have a small team but we are very good. I think that we are going out and surprising people at every meet we attend.”
Prior to the season neither the women or men teams were projected to win the Big Sky Conference title. The men’s team was projected to place eighth in the preseason Big Sky Conference coaches’ poll, while the women were expected to place third. The reality is that both teams are doing very well this season and are looking to better their preseason projections.
“I don’t think other teams are paying attention to our guys,” Blackwood said. “Going into the season our girls were expected to do well but the guys weren’t. However, both teams are doing very well this season even though it may not have been expected to do so.”
Although many felt that Portland State track and field was a program of the future, the team is proving that they are also a team of the present. With gutsy performances at every meet and experienced leadership paving the way, the Vikings are proving to be very respectable. While the freshman and sophomores may be the products of the future, they could certainly take a page out of the veterans’ book to assist them in fulfilling their potential. Namely, keep working hard until the end.