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Firebirds Come Away With Big Performances at Vince Brown Invitational

Simone Grant is competed in multiple events throughout the day.
Simone Grant is competed in multiple events throughout the day.

NEWPORT NEWS, VA – The University of the District of Columbia Women's Indoor Track & Field team competed amongst quality teams at the D1, D2 and D3 levels as the Firebirds put forth strong individual performances at the Vince Brown Invitational held at Christopher Newport University on Sunday.


Junior, Brittany Okon (Health Education – Bronx, NY/Pelham Prep Academy) made her season debut in the Long Jump as she jumped 4.91M on her first attempt. She could not get any further on any subsequent attempts and finished 19th of 50 competitors. She also saw action for the Firebirds on the track in the 60M, finishing 3rd in her heat. Though having the 12th fastest time among 58 competitors, she was denied a place in the Section 2 Final due to the separation of Division I teams from all other unattached runners. 


Freshman Geordinell Thurston (Biology – Freeport Bahamas/Bishop Michael Eldon) also ran for the Firebirds in the 60M and showed improvement, running 8.36s to place 3rd in her heat and 33rd best overall among 50 competitors. 


The next big performance on the track came from a trio of All-American runners in the 400M event in the seeded section. Running out in front from the gun, senior Jerily Benjamin (Health Education – Queens New York/Phillip Randolph) would come into the final turn just ahead of a competitor from Hampton University and her teammate, junior Simone Grant (Health Education – Bronx New York/Pelham Prep Academy). With a fast finishing kick, Grant would win the heat in a time of 58.48 seconds (converted to 57.72 seconds) - not far off her Outdoor best of 58.41 seconds. Benjamin finish 3rd  in a time of 58.84 seconds. Benjamin was 4th fastest overall among 55 competitors while Grant had the 2nd fastest time overall. Her time of 57.72 seconds is also the 49th fastest time run in Division II.


The Firebirds also saw action in the middle-distance events, as senior Kimoy Mais (Mass Media – St. Andrew Jamaica/St. Andrew) was a runaway winner in Heat 3 of the 800M with a time of 2:30.22. Coming off of a knee injury, she placed 16th among 65 competitors.


The biggest event of the day for the Firebirds was the 200M, where the majority of the team competed in the event. Benjamin, was 2nd in Section 15 with a time of 26.42 seconds, good for 8th best among the field of 80.  The Firebirds also had the 21st-23rd fastest times run on the day in the event with junior Marlena Wright (Journalism – Bronx New York/Dewiitt Clinton) running 26.99 seconds, Okon 27.11 and junior Christina Baker (Psychology – Kingston Jamaica/Collegiate Institute for Math & Science) 27.16 seconds, respectively.  Freshman, Shayna Hodge (Glenn Dale Maryland/Duval) continued to show improvement in the event, running 27.62 seconds in Heat 5 for 33rd overall. 


Several athletes came away with season-best times, but none rivaled the performance of Simone Grant who ran an Indoor Personal Best in the 200M of 25.27 seconds (converted to 24.89 seconds) to be the top collegiate finisher in the event. Running in the seeded heat, she blazed out to a fast start, and was only caught by a professional athlete. Her time of 24.89 seconds places her 21st in the country in Division II.  She was the top collegiate athlete on the day amongst 80 competitors in the event. Action ended on the day for the Firebirds in the field, with freshman, Tajah Franklin throwing her season-best in the Shot Put with a toss of 9.80M for 28th place among 54 competitors.


Head Coach Alton McKenzie said this was a great way to start February as the team heads into the Championship portion of the season.


"Our performances are improving but most importantly everyone is competing hard and extending themselves," he said. "This is critical as we prepare for our conference championship, so I'm pleased with our progress and looking forward to us continuing to train hard, stay healthy and get ready for what's to come the rest of our Indoor Season."


The Firebirds take a weekend off and then head to South Huntington, NY to compete in the ECC Championships, February 21st, 2014.