LANDOVER, MD - The Firebirds continue to build on their great start to the Indoor Track Season with several personal best and NCAA Provisional marks on the track and in the field during Saturday's Terrrapin Invitational at the PG Sports and Learning Complex.
The day started with junior Kaydian Jones (Journalism – Kingston, Jamaica/St. Andrew HS) continued emergence in the Long Jump as she put forth a season best jump of 5.50M to finish third among 28 competitors. Her mark was just a grain of sand short of the NCAA Provisional Qualifying mark or 5.51M.
"Kaydian is right on the cusp of qualifying, so we're eager to see if she can get there next week," head coach Alton McKenzie said. "She's so close - I'm confident she'll get there."
The momentum from the Long Jump carried over to the 60M which saw fellow junior sprinter/jumper Shauna-Kay Creary (Accounting – Kingston, Jamaica/St. Andrew HS) run a personal best twice in the 60M. First in the heats with a time of 8.06 seconds for 3rd place, and then returning in the two section finals to run another personal best, this time winning the 2nd Section with a time of 7.94 seconds. This time was good for 8th overall amongst 44 competitors – the majority of which were from Division I.
Juniors Atiya Amis (Mass Media – Washington, DC/Dunbar Senior HS) and Jasmine Smith (Civil Engineering – Baltimore, MD/Polytechnic HS) also competed in the 60M, with Amis finishing 5th of seven competitors (21st overall) in 8.29 seconds, and Smith also 5th of 7 competitors (30th overall) in 8.41 seconds.
The Firebirds saw strong performances from runners in the 300M as well. Junior Rochelle Nelson (Mass Media – Kingston, Jamaica/Holmwood Tech HS) finishing 3rd in Heat 4 with a time of 42.51, followed by freshman Simone Grant (Health Education – Bronx, NY/Pelham Prep Academy) in fourth with a time of 43.09. They were 4th and 5th, respectively, in a field of 17 competitors.
In the 400M, sophomore Jerily Benjamin (Bronx, NY/Phillip Randolph HS) won heat 3 of the 400M comfortably in 60.35 seconds. This was good for 11th overall among 29 competitors. Senior Callister Jones (Marketing – Fort Washington, MD/Oxon Hill HS) was 5th in heat four with a time of 61.3 seconds for 18th overall.
District of Columbia also saw action in the 600M with sophomore Kimoy Mais (Mass Media – St. Andrew, Jamaica/St. Andrew HS) finishing 3rd in Heat 3 with a time of 1:42.95 for 8th best in the field of 20 runners. Meanwhile, Amis won heat 3 of the 200M with a time of 27.34 seconds for 17th overall amongst 36 competitors.
But with all the strong performances for the Firebirds on Saturday, the highlight of the day belonged to Shauna-Kay Creary. The junior ran from the finish line after the 60M Finals to the Jump Pit to compete in the Triple Jump for the first time in her career. Having the meet of her life, Creary leapt out to an NCAA Provisional Qualifying Mark on her 3rd jump, bounding out to 11.56M. She finished 3rd in the Terrapin Invitational with that effort in a field of 20 jumpers. Her mark of 11.56M puts her at 27th in Division 2.
"It was truly amazing to see Shauna-Kay step up and perform on Saturday," McKenzie said. "She had an amazing run in the 60M, and followed that up with an amazing introduction to the Triple Jump. To jump almost 38 ft. the very first time she competed in that event says a lot about the potential she possesses in this event. To go from a High Jumper to an elite Long and Triple Jumper, and a very good sprinter shows her character and willingness to be open to trying new events. Sky's the limit for her in the Triple Jump and her best sprinting is definitely ahead of her. I can't wait for her to step foot on a runway next week."
Then, to top off what had already been a great performance by the Firebirds, they closed out the day on a high note with yet another strong performance from their 4x400M Team. Callister Jones led off the team to put them right in the thick of things in Heat 3. Jerily Benjamin ran an exceptional 2nd leg to put Rochelle Nelson in the driver's seat on the 3rd leg. Nelson came through by opening up a large lead for Simone Grant, who finished the job with an exceptional last leg. When the clock stopped at 3:58.02 seconds, the Firebirds had assured themselves a place on the NCAA Provisional qualifying list. The time, converted, comes out to 3:54.92, which is the 19th fastest time run by any team in Division 2 this season. This puts District of Columbia as the 14th best school currently on that Provisional qualifying list. Their effort was also 5th best (among 16 teams) at the Terrapin Invitational, despite not running in the fastest heat of the 4x400M.
January 19th marked the two-year anniversary of Coach McKenzie's appointment as head coach of the University of the District of Columbia cross country and track and field programs. He said the team's performance was certainly a terrific way to mark that occasion.
"We've built on tremendous efforts the past two weeks, and we're eager to continue that trend next week. I'm very impressed with, and grateful for, the work [volunteer assistant] coach Kevin Bembridge has put in with our jumpers, and I look forward to continued improvement in that area."
Next week the Firebirds will compete at the Patriot Games in Fairfax, VA.