LEVELLAND—The 2016-17 campaign has been good to the South Plains College track and field coaching staff.
After being named the West Region Indoor Head Coach of the Year in March, first-year head coach Erik Vance can add West Region Outdoor Head Coach of the Year to his resume after being named the top coach in the region by fellow coaches in the West region. Vance has led the Texans to a No. 2 national ranking and has the Lady Texans ranked third in the latest USTFCCCA polls. The Texans will look to capture an unprecedented 11th consecutive national title when they take to the track on Thursday at the 2017 NJCAA Outdoor National Championships at Gowans Stadium in Hutchinson, Ka.
"It all comes back to the kids and the way they perform," Vance said. "The athletes that we have and the way they perform when they step on the track puts me in that position. It's less of what I can do and more of the way the compete every week and doing what they're capable of. This group, in the field events especially on the men's side, is a motivated group that really hates to lose. When you have a group like that, you don't have to give a lot of speeches or pump up stuff, you're just trying to keep them leveled out."
First-year assistant coach Justin Hobbs continues to be a key asset to the program as he was named the West Region Outdoor Assistant Coach of the Year. Hobbs was named the West Region Indoor Assistant Coach of the Year in March and continues to help build a program rich in tradition.
"Being my first year, I know the tradition that this program has, and I think coach Vance last year as an assistant did such a great job in recruiting that he really gave me a solid group to work with. This group is so intrinsically motivated, I just show them where the starting line is and they go out and make it happen. This just goes to show how great the program is and I just happened to be the guy who is lucky enough to be here."
Freshman jumps specialist Laquan Nairn has been nothing short of spectacular this season setting two of the top marks in the country in the long and triple jump events. For that, Nairn was named the West Region Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year and will look to add Outdoor National Champion to his growing list of accolades at the national meet. After suffering a season-ending knee injury last season, Nairn was able to overcome a rigorous rehab program and put himself in contention for a national title.
"Laquan had an injury last year that wasn't life threating or any of the sort, but was one that sometimes can be career threatening," Vance said. "When a long or triple jumper injures a knee, their long-term outlook as a jumper is one you have to wonder if they'll ever recover and be able to come back the same. Not only has he worked hard enough to come back the same, but he's significantly better, and that's just a testament to his work ethic and determination to come back and be great."