SOUTH HUNTINGTON - With a full team effort, the University of the District of Columbia Women's Indoor Track & Field team pulled out all the stops to repeat as East Coast Conference Indoor Track & Field Champions Saturday at St. John's HS.
Despite some missteps, this resilient group of 12 responded to adversity in the meet and ensured the Championship returned to Washington, DC. The day started with senior Shauna-Kay Creary (Accounting - Kingston, Jamaica/St. Andrew HS) beginning her long day, first competing in the High Jump - the first women's field event of the day. Though clearing the same height as the winner (1.60M), she was beaten on the count back, and finished 2nd in her first of five events on the day.
Next, the Firebirds would compete in the first track event of the day, the 4x200M with the team of Charmaine Sweeney, Jasmine Smith, Christina Baker and Jerily Benjamin running a tremendous race on the anchor leg to take the win on the line (just edging Georgian Court), after trailing slightly for most of the race.
"Charmaine led off well, but we had a botched hand off on the 2nd leg," head coach Alton McKenzie said. Jasmine dug in and made up some of the deficit, and Christina ran tremendously to cut the lead further. Of course, without Jerily's amazing anchor leg we don't catch Georgian Court to win at the line."
Action returned to the field as the three Firebird long jumpers looked to score big points in one of the strong areas for UDC. With multiple events to cover, Creary opened with a good jump to put herself in contention for the final. Same was done by sophomore Simone Grant (Health Education – Bronx, NY/Pelham Prep Academy) to give the Firebirds multiple scorers in this event. But it was Senior Kaydian Jones (Journalism – Kingston, Jamaica/St. Andrew HS) who put her mark on the event being the last jumper in the Flight, leaping to 5.65M on her first jump - a mark that would have won the competition. All three jumpers would make it back to the finals and score big points by finishing 1st, 3rd and 5th, providing crucial points for the Firebirds in their quest to top the point total. Simone Grant made a good return from an early season ankle injury to finish 5th in the Long Jump with a leap of 5.23M. Creary was 3rd with a leap of 5.30M. The winner was Jones with an Indoor season best 5.69M, which places her 21st in Division II Nationally.
Creary and Jones would sprint from the Long Jump Pit to the 60M and also secure their places in the 60M Final, a key event for the Firebirds with their strength in the sprints. Sophomore Brittany Okon (Health Education – Bronx, NY/Pelham Prep Academy) would win her heat with a Season's Best 8.00 and Jasmine Smith would finish 2nd to Creary in her prelim to secure four of the six places in the final. The victory would come from Okon who again ran a season's best, finishing in 7.91 seconds for the win. The Firebirds were also 3rd (Smith, 8.08), 4th (Creary, 8.09) and 5th (Jones, 8.10) to secure 22 points from this one event.
The dominance in the sprints continued in the 400M, where Jerily Benjamin dominated from the gun, finishing in 59.73 seconds for the win. Charmaine Sweeney was 4th with a time of 64.06. Then the first Firebird 1-2 finish on the day came in the 500M which saw sophomore Marlena Wright (Journalism – Bronx, NY/Dewitt Clinton HS) defending her title in the event, finishing in 1:20.18. Teammate Kimoy Mais (Mass Media – St. Andrew, Jamaica/St. Andrew HS) followed with a time of 1:21.05 for the runner-up spot.
Action would switch back to the Field, as Creary would compete in her fourth event of the day - the Triple Jump. Despite fouling some big jumps, she was able to secure 2nd place with a leap of 11.22M, again getting denied the victory despite having the same jump as the winner because the 2nd best jump by an athlete from Molloy relegated Creary to 2nd.
"I thought Shauna was very unfortunate to not come out of the Triple Jump with the win, fouling on a big jump after coming from the 60M Final," McKenzie said. "I can't say enough about her toughness to compete in three events before getting on the Triple Jump runway. I felt she was magnificent and look forward to what she will do when fresh for the Triple Jump."
With the meet getting down to just distance races, one sprint event and 2 relays, the Firebirds would have to make their run at the Championship in the 200M since they had no competitors in the 4x800M or the 3,000M. Showing the fight they have had all season, the Firebirds responded by taking the top five places in the 200M. Creary won Heat 4 convincingly with a time of 26.89, closing out her very long day in her 5th event of the meet, finishing 5th overall. Sweeney finished 2nd in heat 5 and wound up finishing 4th overall in a time of 26.57 seconds. The winner of that heat was Simone Grant in her season debut in the 200M, running 26.18, which would be 2nd best in the event on the day. Her teammate Jerily Benjamin finished 2nd in the last Heat of the 200M with a time of 26.38 seconds to secure 3rd overall. But the runaway winner of the event was Kaydian Jones, who returned from disappointment in the 60M (she had her starting blocks slip and could only manage enough of a recovery to finish 5th in that event),taking the 200M in a sharp time of 25.45 seconds.
"What we did in the 200M as a group was remarkable," McKenzie said. "Also because we had some misfortune in the 60M with Kaydian's block sliding, I thought she showed tremendous sportsmanship to get up and run and finish 5th, and then win the 200M yet again, and in a great time after the spill in the 60M."
With 30 points scored in the 200M event, the Firebirds had secured their second straight title. The Firebirds were not done though as they ran away with the 4x400M with the team of Marlena Wright, Simone Grant, Jerily Benjamin and Kaydian Jones running a time of 4:02.97, winning by close to 10 seconds. Wright secured her 2nd victory competing in her third event of the meet, and Grant (runner-up in the 200M), Benjamin (2 Relay Titles and 400m Title) and Jones (securing her 3rd win of the meet adding titles from the 200M and Long Jump) would close the meet competing in their 4th event of the day and ensure that the ECC Indoor Championship Title remained with the Firebirds for another season.
"I can't say how proud I am of this group of 12 athletes to pull this one off. It was a lot tougher than the score reflects. We had some adversity within the meet but as true Champions, they showed their toughness and responded well. They are battle-tested and it showed today with us repeating as Indoor Champions," McKenzie said.
"Going into the 200M, I told the team we were down by 10 and had no entries in the 3000M or the 4x800…events which Georgian Court had some presence and potential scorers. I told them sweep the 200M or we could come up just short. They responded, and the rest is history. I'm very honored to be the Coach of this group and I'm proud to bring another ECC Conference Team title back to the University of the District of Columbia."