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Firebird Blaze at Spartan Invitational

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

STATEN ISLAND, NY - Competing in the competitive Spartan Invitational against some of the best NCAA Division II Schools in the East Region plus several Division I programs, the University of the District of Columbia Women's Track & Field team made its presence felt with several quality performances.


"Today's meet was about getting familiar with this great facility – the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex - that will be the site for our [East Coast] Conference Championship," head coach Alton McKenzie said. "I was very pleased with our overall team performance, but especially impressed with the field event performances."


The Firebirds got off to a good start on the track with a great performance in the 4x200M. The foursome of freshman Stacy-Ann Rowe, senior Brittany Okon, senior Marlena Wright and graduate Jerily Benjamin finished 2nd in Heat 2 with a time of 1:45.17 - good for 4th best overall among 14 teams.


The field events also got underway for the Firebirds early, beginning with the Long Jump. Senior Simone Grant had a great series of jumps, and upon completion, she would be the overall winner with a jump of 5.50M - just falling short of the NCAA Provisional qualifying mark of 5.57M.


The first individual track event for the Firebirds saw sophomore Shayna Hodge run a season best in the 60M hurdles, finishing 4th in Heat 1 with a time of 9.54s. She just missed making it back to the finals, finishing 10th overall among 34 competitors in the event. 


The action for the Firebirds continued on the track in the sprints with Jasmine Walker running 8.06s for a season best in the 60M. Brittany Okon also had a season best in the 60M, running 7.91s to finish 2nd in her heat and make it back to the finals (among 48 competitors). She would finish 4th in the eight-athlete final with a time of 7.94s.


Next on the track for the Firebirds were the quarter milers. Simone Grant showed her versatility by stepping off the Long Jump Runway and onto the track, competing in the 400M.  She would win Heat 5 in a time of 1:00.29. Her teammate, Jerily Benjamin, also ran her first 400M of the season, finishing with an impressive 58.48s to win section 2 of the event and finish 5th among 55 competitors in the event.  


Action for the Firebirds would return to the field where freshman Saida Burnsmoore had double-duty in the High Jump and Triple Jump. Going from pit to runway, she would come away with a win in the High Jump, clearing 1.60M. Also, her first outing in the Triple Jump saw her bound out to 11.24M. Her effort in the Triple Jump would place her 2nd overall among 23 competitors.


The Firebirds day of good performances continued with the last sprint event of the day – the 200M. Benjamin returned to the track to finish 3rd in Heat 1 and 7th best overall in the large field of 69 competitors. Grant also continued her long day of competition (having already competed in the Long Jump and 400M), wrapping up with a good performance in the 200M - finishing 3rd in Heat 2 with a time of 25.94s to place 6th overall.


The Firebirds' day ended with the 4x400M. The quartet of Shayna Hodge, Jasmine Walker, Stacy-Ann Rowe and Geordinell Thurston ran a very competitive race to finish 2nd in Heat 2 with a time of 4:08.83. This placed the group 6th best among 11 teams.


"This meet had some very competitive races on the track, with some of the top teams in the East Region in Division II as well as some strong Division I Programs, and I thought, as a team, we competed very well," McKenzie said.


The Firebirds' strong team performance led to a 6th place finish among the 20 teams competing at the event, and the top Division II team in the final women's team scoring. 


"We now need to build on this momentum, go back to the drawing board and get in some good training as we prepare for the rest of the Indoor Season," McKenzie said. "I look forward to continued improvement from the team as the season progresses. We just need to keep putting in the hard work."


The Firebirds will take a week off before returning to action January 30th to compete at the Terrapin Invitational at the P.G Sports Complex in Landover, MD.