CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - With NCAA qualifying marks well within reach based on prior performances, the University of the District of Columbia women's outdoor track and field squad fulfilled the promise its shown all season by turning in outstanding performances at the UVA Challenge Meet. This meet served as one of the many Last Chance Meets around the country, and the Firebirds took full advantage of the opportunity.
"What a weekend of big performances," head coach Alton McKenzie said. "Though we only took a small group of five athletes to the VA Challenge, they all competed extremely hard and came away from the meet with an opportunity to compete at the NCAA Championships."
The 200M was the first event where they would look to make a mark, with freshman Simone Grant (Health Education – Bronx, NY/Pelham Prep Academy) and junior Kaydian Jones (Journalism – Kingston, Jamaica/St. Andrew HS) leading the charge. Grant placed 3rd in a time of 25.12 (season's best) amongst the field of four athletes. Jones also ran a season's best, placing 2nd in a time of 24.33 seconds, which places her 29th best in the 200M nationally.
As has been customary for her all season, Jones just barely had time to run from the finish line back to the jump pit, where she competed in the Long Jump. Her best leap came on her first jump, which was 5.59M and good for 3rd best overall amongst six competitors.
Next on the track for the Firebirds was the 4x400M, which saw Jones leading off for her 3rd event of the day. She had a swift start on the lead off leg and was way ahead at the first exchange. She handed off to sophomore Jerily Benjamin (Undecided – Queens, NY/Phillip Randolph HS) who would widen the gap before handing off to junior Rochelle Nelson (Mass Media – Kingston, Jamaica/Holmwood Tech HS) who ran a tremendous leg to set up anchor Simone Grant to close the race. With only two teams competing and the Firebirds holding an insurmountable lead, they were now simply running against the clock. Grant was able to expand the lead as she crossed the line at 3:45.64 – a full 10 seconds ahead of the runner-up team. As a result of their grit and determination, they earned the 22nd fastest time run by any Division II team this season, and ranks them nationally as the 13th best school in this event.
"The 4x400M Team of Kaydian, Jerily, Rochelle and Simone showed a lot of heart to go after attaining a qualifying time despite not having a lot of company to run," McKenzie said. "I'm proud of the effort they displayed to run a time that was five seconds faster than we've run all year. Wherever that leaves us nationally, I'll gladly take, as I know they ran their hearts out."
The stellar 4x400M relay performance would carry over to the Triple Jump runway which saw junior Shauna-Kay Creary (Accounting – Kingston, Jamaica/St. Andrew HS) have her own big performance after watching her teammates compete. Her 2nd jump of 12.30M shattered her personal best and moved her from 21st to 13th in the country.
"Shauna-Kay continues to show promise in the Triple Jump and yet another Personal Best speaks to that for sure," McKenzie said.
The Firebirds will now wait to see if today's declared times and distances will place them in the field at the NCAA Championships in two weeks in Pueblo, CO.