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Firebirds Impress at Saturday’s Vince Brown Invitational

Sophomore Shayna Hodge ran a season best 9.51s to finish 4th in the 60M Hurdles.
Sophomore Shayna Hodge ran a season best 9.51s to finish 4th in the 60M Hurdles.

NEWPORT NEWS, VA - Getting into the critical point of the Indoor season, the University of the District of Columbia turned in strong performances Saturday, February 6th at the Vince Brown Invitational held at Christopher Newport University.

The Firebirds got going from the very first track event for the sprinters, as sophomore Shayna Hodge showed her consistency and continued improvement throughout the season in the 60M Hurdles event. She ran a season best in the prelims (9.53s) and returned to even better that mark in the finals, running 9.51s to finish 4th among six competitors in the final and 29 competitors overall.


Other Firebirds also excelled in the 60M event as senior Brittany Okon won the first heat with a time of 7.98s, and her teammate, sophomore Stacy-Ann Rowe, did the same, winning heat 2 with a time of 7.99s. Both would compete in the finals, where Rowe finished 4th with a season best time of 7.93s and Okon 6th with a time of 7.99s. They were 4th and 6th among 38 overall competitors.


Action for the Firebirds wasn't focused just on the track though, as the jumpers also turned in impressive marks. Freshman sensation Saida Burns-Moore made her debut in the Long Jump, leaping out to 4.80M for 13th among 34 competitors. The pair of Brittany Okon and Simone Grant also turned in Indoor collegiate-best marks. Okon jumped 5.20M for 3rd best among all collegiate athletes, and Grant leaped out to an impressive 5.56M - just shy of the NCAA Division II Provisional qualifying mark of 5.57M. This season-best mark for Grant was 2nd best among all 34 collegians at the meet and moved her up to 34th overall among Division II athletes nationally.


The Firebird action then returned to the track where graduate Jerily Benjamin turned in a winning performance in the 400M. She ran 58.19s, which was converted to 57.43s and is just shy of the NCAA Provisional qualifying mark of 57.10s. She was tops among 50 competitors in the event, and her time also places her 5th among all East Region competitors in the 400M.


The final Field highlight of the day saw Burns-Moore tie her season best mark of 1.63M to finish 2nd among 29 competitors.


The 200M was the next event to feature great performances from the Firebirds. Junior Jasmine Walker finished 10th overall, running 27.02s, and Simone Grant was the runner-up in the 200m with a season best time of 25.76s.


Grant would return to close out the meet as anchor for the Firebirds in the 4x400M Relay, as the team of Jerily Benjamin, Marlena Wright, Jasmine Walker and Grant cruised to an easy victory with a time of 4:04.01 seconds.


"We had some impressive marks on the runway in the Long Jump, and decent performances on the track as well," head coach Alton McKenzie said. "The goal is to continue improving as a team as the championship portion of the season approaches. We're looking forward to getting even more focused efforts as we head into the next few weeks."


Next week, the Firebirds will head to the Fastrack Invite hosted by Manhattan College to be held at the Ocean Breeze Complex in Staten Island, NY.