ActivePaper Archive National meet to draw 750 athletes - Hobbs News Sun, 5/15/2019

National meet to draw 750 athletes

• NMJC hosting junior college national meet Thursday through Saturday


New Mexico Junior College added a new set of bleachers, and a new pressbox in preparation for hosting the NJCAA National Outdoor Track & Field Meet this week.

The City of Hobbs and Lea County are used to hosting big events and having hundreds of people come to town for them. Every year the Lea County Fair and Rodeo brings in spectators and cowboys/cowgirls from all over the Southwest. Each of the last two years, and again next year, Rockwind Community Links is hosting the NMAA state golf tournament. But this week, starting Thursday, New Mexico Junior College will be hosting the NJCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

There will be 47 different colleges from across the nation sending athletes who have qualified for this week’s tournament. Most of those schools will have men and women’s teams.

According to the NMJC athletic director, the NJCAA said to expect around 750 athletes and another 400 to 500 people in the form of coaches, families and spectators.

“Outside of the athletes, it is going to be hard to predict (how many people will be coming to town),” NMJC Athletic Director Deron Clark said. “The NJCAA ask for you to be prepared for 750 athletes and the contingency that travels with that, that is an extra 400, 500 people.”

When NMJC put in its bid to host this event, the NJCAA accepted the school and facilities as is. However, since the bid was accepted, NMJC has added and upgraded many of its facilities to give the athletes, and the fans, a better experience.

“The bid was accepted by the NJCAA as is,” Clark said. “When we received the bid last April, Dr. Sharp and his administration at that time said we need to make some improvements to make sure that this is the way it needs to be.”

Among the modifications NMJC made are new bleachers, two new video boards, a new press box, and lights for the evening events. The restrooms and concession areas were upgraded as well.

“We needed to add an additional press box that allowed the timer to view the finish line,” Clark said. “The lighting was necessary to be able to take care of business if we need to with a weather delay and we needed to compete later in the day.”

One of the biggest pluses NMJC has for hosting the meet is that all of the facilities for every event will be on site in one location. NMJC head track and field coach Keith Blackwill raved about having everything in one spot.

“The issue we have with some of the other places is the hammer cage might be two miles away from the track,” Blackwill said. “So, if a coach is at the hammer, which there are going to be, if they have an athlete going, there is no way to coach another athlete that they may be coaching when they are two miles away. Here you can do two things at one time. You can make sure your athletes are warming up and doing what they are supposed to because you are going to be right there.”

For fans interested in watching the throwing events, those will get underway Thursday morning at 9 a.m. while the running events will begin at 7 p.m. Before the running events get started, a pair of former NMJC track stars, Tom Cantrell and Wardell Gilbreath will fire the ceremonial pistol at 6:45 p.m.

“On Thursday evening, Tom Cantrell and Wardell Gilbreath will be down on the track,” Clark said. “They will pull the trigger on the starting pistols for a ceremonial start for the running events.”

The college has added credit card machines to the ticket booths and concession stands, so spectators will not have to rely on bringing cash. The cost for fans to attend will vary. For senior adults (55 years and older), the cost will be $5 per day or $10 for a three-day pass. Adults (ages 13 to 54 years) are $10 per day or $25 for a three-day pass. Kids (ages 6 to 12 years) are $5 a day and $10 for a three-day pass. Children ages 5 and under will be free.

While this is the first time NMJC will be hosting the NJCAA National Outdoor Track & Field meet, Clark hopes this becomes something the school can host every couple of years.

“We will go after it every two years,” Clark said. “I am just pending what the NJCAA told us after they came in on their site review back in November of 2017, they came on their campus visit and said at that time if you want to keep hosting this thing, just put the bid in. Now, with everything that we have done, I think we should be a shoe-in.”