Athlete of the Year - Highlands’ Slack reaps national track and field honor

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By Matthew Lofton
NMHU Sports Information

All-American, five checks. National championship, double check. Division II Female Field Athlete of the Year is now a big check.

New Mexico Highlands University junior Salcia Slack has been named the 2014 NCAA Division II Female Field Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, the organization announced this past week.

“This is our second national athlete of the year as (former long jump national champion) Jillisa Grant was the first,” head coach Bob DeVries said. “It says a lot about our program and the quality of athletes we have been able to recruit and develop.”

After recording a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference record 54 points at the RMAC Outdoor Championships to win both Conference Field Athlete of the Year and Performer of the Meet, Slack got off to a slow start in the heptathlon at the National Championships. Through the first four events last Thursday, Slack sat fourth.

“There were a lot of coaches watching day one of the heptathlon out of curiosity, as word had gotten around about this amazing athlete at Highlands,” DeVries recalled. “When the first day ended rather average, there was a little bit of ‘what’s all the fuss?’”

“Salcia then won the long jump in a near record, came back to dominate the heptathlon and showed that she was one of the best athletes ever in Division II track and field,” DeVries added.

After a lackluster finish to day one of the heptathlon, Slack did not let it affect her for the rest of the championships.

Coming in to the long jump ranked fourth in the country, Slack won the event by two centimeters in turning in the 16th best long jump in Division II history. Her mark of 20-9 (6.32 meters) was also the second best mark in RMAC and program history (behind the aforementioned Grant).

With one national championship under her belt, Slack blew away the rest of the field on the second day of the heptathlon by winning the individual long jump and javelin events by healthy margins. She took second in the 800 meters to amass 5,714 points, more than 200 points better than her nearest competitor.

Also earning All-America honors by finishing third in the triple jump, Slack finished with 26 points all by herself. The Cowgirls finished seventh as a team in the meet, but she would have been eighth all by herself with 26 points.

Not only did Slack break the Division II heptathlon record with a score of 5,833 at the RMAC Championships, she also brought in a massive 54-point surge to the Cowgirls’ team score at the meet with wins in the 100-meter hurdles, the triple jump and the javelin, while finishing runner-up in the long jump.

Indoors, Slack also finished as an All-American in both the pentathlon and triple jumps.

“Coach Patrick Johnson told me two years ago that we needed to try and get Salcia here,” DeVries said. “We couldn’t make it work until this year. The results have certainly been worth the wait.”