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Firebirds Jump Back Into Action at George Mason’s Father Diamond Invitational

Benjamin was 4th in Heat 2 and 10th overall with a time of 1:18.82 in the 500M.
Benjamin was 4th in Heat 2 and 10th overall with a time of 1:18.82 in the 500M.

FAIRFAX, VA - Coming off of an extended winter break, the University of the District of Columbia Women's Track & Field squad rebooted its 2015-16 Indoor campaign with competition at the Father Diamond Invitational held at George Mason University.


"This was a good meet to gauge where we are coming off the break, and so now we all know what we need to work on," head coach Alton McKenzie said. "We're healthy, which is the most important factor, and so now we have to continue training hard and using the next few meets to get race sharp."


The Firebirds first got back to business with several competitors in the 60M dash, including two strong individual performances. In a very large field of 54 competitors, Firebird newcomer Stacy-Ann Rowe ran a 7.99s to finish 2nd in her Heat and 22nd overall. Her teammate, Brittany Okon, ran in the 10th and final Heat and finished 4th in her first 60M running of the season, as she finished in a competitive 7.94s for 17th overall.


UDC also had strong performances from its pair of quarter-milers who ran the 500M this weekend. Senior Marlena Wright was 5th in her heat with a time of 1:22.00, good for 17th best among 40 competitors. Her teammate, Jerily Benjamin, was also very competitive in the event, finishing 4th in Heat 2 with a time of 1:18.82 – good for 10th best overall.


Another strong sprint performance came in the 200M with senior All-American Simone Grant opening her 2016 Indoor campaign in this event. She ran a very impressive 25.95s (flat track) to finish 2nd in her heat, and placed 8th overall among a large field of 54 competitors. Her time converts to 25.56 and places her 20th currently in Division II.


Grant was also a part of the Firebirds' 4x400M quartet that ran out easy winners of Heat 4 at a time of 4:09.42, which was 14th best among 29 teams competing on the day.


The best performance on the day, however, would come in the Ffeld, where freshman Saida Burnsmoore turned in another strong performance in her pet event - the High Jump. She endured two hours of competition in a huge field of 31 high jumpers to finish 3rd overall. Only one jumper cleared a mark higher than her 1.65M - which was her season best. Her 1.65M clearance is also an NCAA Provisional qualifying mark, which puts her 17th best in the country currently in Division II.


"Attaining an NCAA Provisional mark in our first meet back after the break bodes well for [Saida] this season," McKenzie said. "I look forward to what's to come not just from her, but from the entire squad. We just need to keep putting in the hard work and remain patient."


Next up, the Firebirds travel to Staten Island, NY to compete at the Spartan Invitational hosted by ECC counterpart, St. Thomas Aquinas. The meet will be held at the brand new Ocean Breeze Indoor Complex.