FAIRFAX, VA - With NCAA berths on the line, the Firebirds continued to soar with more season-best performances at the Last Chance Meet at George Mason University on Sunday, March 2nd.
Coming off a great weekend of competition where they defended their ECC Indoor Title, an even smaller group of Firebirds went to George Mason with the goal of making improvements to secure places in the NCAA Championships. First on deck was reigning ECC co-Athlete of the Meet, senior Kaydian Jones (Journalism – Kingston, Jamaica/St. Andrew HS) in the Women's Long Jump. Her best mark came on her 5th attempt - a leap of 5.58M - not far off her season's best of 5.69M. Her distance of 5.58M was second best on the day amongst 20 competitors (several of which will be contenders at the NCAA Championships).
In between the finals of the Long Jump, Jones also contested the 60M prelims, running 7.79 to secure a place in the Non-Division I Final of the 60M. She would finish 5th in the 60M Final with a time of 7.75 seconds, good for 6th overall (field of 32 competitors). The Non-Division II Final would prove to be the faster of the two finals with only the winner in the Division I Final running a faster time than Jones.
Not to be forgotten in the field, senior Shauna-Kay Creary (Accounting – Kingston, Jamaica/St. Andrew HS) competed in the Triple Jump, looking to improve on her runner-up performance at the ECC Championship. Creary would leap to a season's best 11.51M, which is an NCAA Provisional Qualifying mark. Her season's best may leave her out of the NCAA Field, but Creary showed progress to finish 7th best amongst 13 competitors.
Action would return to the track where Jones continued her long day by lining up in the 200M. Running out of lane 6 in the fast heat, Jones would speed to an Indoor Personal Best of 25.03 seconds, good for 3rd best on the day in a field of 27 competitors. She was 2nd best amongst collegiate athletes with that performance. This performance puts her 15th best in the country in Division II and puts her in a good position to make the NCAA Field in the 200M.
But the Firebirds would save the biggest moment of the day for their last event, the Women's 4x400M. Coming off a great 200M, Jones would lead off the Firebirds' quartet (58.1s lead-off split) and put them in contention immediately. Second leg runner junior Jerily Benjamin (Health Education – Queens, NY/Phillip Randolph HS) ran a tremendous leg to chase Division II's 2nd best 4x400M team Johnson C. Smith University. Benjamin split a fantastic 56.9 seconds to put the Firebirds right in the thick of things after two legs. Sophomore Marlena Wright (Journalism – Bronx, NY/Dewitt Clinton HS) did her job to close the gap slightly on the 3rd leg with a 57.4 split (fastest split of her collegiate career), giving anchor leg sophomore Simone Grant (Health Education – Bronx, NY/Pelham Prep Academy) a chance to help the Firebirds run a fast time. Grant did just that, ensuring the Firebirds maintained their 2nd place position and closed with a great leg of 58.4 seconds, having run only her second 400M since early January. The Firebirds, as a team, finished with a splendid time of 3:51.23 seconds, a big jump from their previous season's best of 3:56.57.
With their 2nd place finish in the GMU Last Chance Meet, the team of Kaydian Jones, Jerily Benjamin, Marlena Wright and Simone Grant are now 11th best in Division II in the 4x400M and have a great shot at making the NCAA Championships in that event. They will now await the announcement of the NCAA Fields to determine if they have been selected to participate in the NCAA Championships in two weeks. The Firebirds actually finished 8th of 29 teams at the meet.
Head coach Alton McKenzie said he was very impressed with the five athletes who competed at GMU, especially since they all competed in at least three events last week at the ECC Championships.
"Shauna-Kay continues to improve in the Triple Jump, and I know she will continue to get better as the season progresses. Kaydian has been our work horse all year, and that was no different today. Running an Indoor season-best in the 200M of 25.03 after five jumps in the Long Jump along with prelims and finals of the 60M says a lot about her toughness," McKenzie said. "But Kaydian, Jerily, Marlena and Simone coming together to run a fantastic 4x400 epitomizes who we are as a team. We're battle-tested and mentally tough, able to respond when it counts. To run a qualifying time on the last day to qualify says a lot, and I can't express how proud I am of the way they competed today."