NEWPORT NEWS, VA - The University of the District of Columbia Women's Indoor Track & Field team appears to have found its stride early with several strong performances at the Christopher Newport University Holiday Open. The meet commenced on Saturday, December 7th, and set the tone for the Women's indoor season.
Amongst stiff competition, the Firebirds began their impressive performances in the opening event. Sophomore Simone Grant (Health Education – Bronx, NY/Pelham Prep Academy) sprung to 5.14m in the long jump. This attempt was good enough for 11th among 29 competitors, just missing out on the finals. Teammate Kaydian Jones (Journalism – Kingston, Jamaica/St. Andrew HS) showed continuous improvement throughout the meet. She jumped 5.34m in the prelims, and in the final she produced a mark of 5.61m (an NCAA Provisional distance) to finish 3rd overall and 2nd among collegiate athletes. This effort places her 4th in the country among Division 2 Athletes, and is her best collegiate effort indoors.
The success of the Firebirds moved to the track, and saw the 400m runners produce impressive times. Freshman Charmaine Sweeney (Computer Science – Landover, MD/Largo HS) had a stellar debut to her Indoor career as she won Heat 6 with a personal best of 60.8. This time placed her 12th overall out of 44 competitors. Sophomore Jerily Benjamin (Undeclared Queens, NY/Phillip Randolph HS) also had a strong showing in the 400m, finishing a close second in the 8th heat in a time of 59.67. That time placed her 5th overall of the 44 runners in the 400m.
The Firebirds were also a presence in a middle distance event. In the more-grueling 800m, newcomer Kay-Tiarra Johnson (Psychology – Hempstead, NY/Hempstead HS) ran a solid 2:27.30. This was good for 4th in heat 3, and 10th overall among 26 competitors.
The 4x400m relay team for the Firebirds came into Saturday with experience and returning members. The team of Simone Grant (Health Education – Bronx, NY/Pelham Prep Academy), Kimoy Mais (Mass Media – St. Andrew, Jamaica/St. Andrew HS), Kay-Tiarra Johnson and Jerily Benjamin won Heat 2 in a time of 4:03.02 which was good for 5th overall among 21 relay teams. They were followed closely by the other Firebird quartet of Kaydian Jones, Charmaine Sweeney, Christina Baker (Forensic Psychology – Kingston, Jamaica/Collegiate Institute for Math and Science), and Marlena Wright (Journalism – Bronx, NY/Dewitt Clinton HS) who finished in a time of 4:04:52. This time was 7th best among the 21 teams.
The Firebirds will return to the track in the new year on January 11th, 2014 at George Mason University's Father Diamond Invitational. After the holidays, the season really kicks into high gear with three meets in January alone.
Head Coach Alton McKenzie was pleased with the team's performance. "This was a good season opener for us as a team. We got a chance to compete and measure where we are in our training program coming off fall training and Cross Country. Also, having two relay teams run that well speaks to our depth, so I'm looking forward to continued improvement as the season progresses."