WASHINGTON, DC - Entering into the first Indoor Track Season with an East Coast Conference Championship Meet, University of the District of Columbia Head Indoor Track and Field Coach Alton McKenzie could not be more excited to see what squad can achieve.
"We have been training hard, and at the first meet [December 8th at Christopher Newport University] we want to see where we are heading into the holiday season," McKenzie said. "They have not been on an indoor track yet, so we should see where we are."
McKenzie said the team ought to be strong in the short sprints and jumps, especially in the 4x400 relay and 400m events where the 2nd ranked 400m runner in the East Region last Spring, senior Callister Jones (Marketing - Fort Washington, MD/Oxon Hill HS), returns for her final year of eligibility. Of these returning runners, three were part of that stellar 4x400m relay team last Indoor Season that ranked third in the East Region. The returning members of that team are junior Kaydian Jones (Journalism - Kingston, Jamaica/ St. Andrews HS), sophomore Kimoy Mais (Mass Media - St. Andrew, Jamaica/St. Andrew HS), and Callister Jones. These runners will also have an opportunity this Indoor season to compete in the 500M event.
Not only does the team have a strong core of returning athletes, McKenzie also added strong quarter milers, including freshman Jerily Benjamin (Undeclared - Queens, NY/Phillip Randolph HS), junior Rochelle Nelson (Mass Media - Kingston, Jamaica/Holmwood Technical HS), freshman Marlena Wright (Journalism - Bronx, NY/Dewitt Clinton HS), and junior Jeania Bagley (Journalism - Washington, DC/PG Community College).
The Firebirds will also feature some very versatile runners such as freshmen Simone Grant (Health Education - Bronx, NY/Pelham Prep Academy) and Christina Baker (Forensic Psychology - Kingston, Jamaica/Collegiate Institute for Math & Science), who both will be able to compete across the board in multiple events. Kaydian Jones, according to McKenzie, will be someone to follow as well as she competes in the Long Jump where she placed in the region last season. Grant, too, should make her mark in the Long Jump this season, McKenzie said.
Meanwhile, junior Shauna-Kay Creary (Accounting - Kingston, Jamaica/St. Andrew HS) also showed potential in the sprint events last year, and Mckenzie hopes to build on her success and get her to improve in the Long Jump, Triple Jump, and possibly get her back to her peak performance in the High Jump where she was strong her freshman year. Other returnees include junior Jasmine Smith (Civil Engineering - Baltimore, MD/Polytechnic HS), senior Shemeia Barnes (Criminal Justice - Forestville, MD/Largo HS), junior Atiya Amis (Mass Media - Washington, DC/Dunbar HS) and sophomore Tatyana Commock (Political Science – Washington, DC/McKinley Tech HS). All are experienced runners and they are expected to make major contributions in the short sprints (60M and 200M) this season.
The highlight of the season will be the first ECC conference championship on February 23rd in South Huntington, NY. Coach McKenzie is excited for this championship "because now everyone will have an opportunity to contribute at the conference level." McKenzie is aiming to have multiple all-conference athletes in every event they participate in this year and expects a quality finish as a team at the championship meet as well.
"We're also certainly hoping to make our mark on the region and see just how close we can get to earning NCAA qualifying marks. The conference championship is certainly something to look forward to, but it is certainly not our end goal," McKenzie said.
The Firebirds begin their season Saturday, December 8th in Newport News, Virginia at the Christopher Newport Invitational.