Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jacksonville Track and Field Runs a Balanced Race

MACON, Ga. – The four-time defending Atlantic Sun Conference Track and Field Champion Jacksonville Dolphins claimed their most recent women’s indoor title on Feb. 21 with a record 171 points in the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center. But, with MVP Natasha Harvey graduating last season, what is in store for the program seeking their fifth straight crown?

This season, Jacksonville returns a strong nucleus that includes senior Tiffany Bromfield, redshirt sophomore Stacey Young, sophomore Amaila Vogler, junior Ronnisha Hall, and junior Unique Singleton, all of whom won individual events at the 2009 championship, plus a majority of the winning distance medley relay team in Vogler, senior Ali Ritter and senior Alyssa Deal. In the pentathalon, Bromfield set a league record with 3,437 points while Young finished with 3,325 in second. Young also earned the Most Outstanding Freshman Performer after finishing third in the 60-meter hurdles and second in the pentathlon. Hall set an individual conference record in the shot put with a throw of 13.99 meters and added another record in the 20-lb. weight throw with a distance of 18.26 meters. In individual sprints, Singleton placed first in the 400, while Jacksonville’s distance medley relay team set a conference record with a time of 12:03.73. Head coach Ron Grigg also earned his fourth coach of the year award.

However, JU will find it difficult to replace Harvey. The 2009 graduate earned Most Outstanding Field Performer, Most Outstanding Track Performer and Most Valuable Performer at the meet, Harvey claimed individual titles in the triple jump (12.20 meters), the long jump (21’8”, 6.60m), the 60-meter dash (7.54 seconds) and the 60-meter hurdles (8.55), but with Harvey leaving the field, no pun intended, what is in store for Jacksonville? Perhaps JU thinks they found a replacement in a freshman from Alfortville, France.

In only first collegiate season of track and field, Charlene Charles posted a school-record 3,670 points in her first collegiate meet to win the Carol Robinson Pentathlon on Friday, Dec. 11 in Manhattan, Kan. Charles, who won the event by more than 460 points, shattering Harvey’s school record of 3,626 points set at the 2007 Razorback Invitational.

Charles won the high jump portion with a school record leap of 5’5.25” (1.66m) and also produced a leap of 18’8.5” (5.70m) to take first in the long jump and ran a lifetime best time of 8.70 to win the 60-meter hurdles portion. Charles finished second in the 800-meter (2:32.08) and third in the shot put (29’6” (8.99m)) to round out her victory.

Now that Harvey graduated, Coach Grigg relies on Charles and the rest of the team to gun for a tournament title.

“Our whole season is pointing toward the A-Sun Championships, even though we will be a little bit late to get started,” he said. “We’ll compete twice before the championships, the major competition is in Nebraska. We’ll spend some money to get out there and hopefully get good qualifying marks so we have a lot of options for who will do what on championship day. Most of our returners have the ability to be top three finishers in their event.”

Grigg also tells of another athlete, Anastasia Fokina, a sophomore from Dimitrov, Moscow, Russia, who may fly under the radar even though she turned in an excellent mark at the 2009 A-Sun Cross Country Championships.

“The best story is Anastasia, who finished 7th in the A-Sun Cross Country Championships. In 2008 at a Florida State track meet, her femur broke in half. The following year, she just wasn’t ready for track. Now she’s rebounded for a great cross country season.”

But as the track and field season gets underway, history shows that successful teams appear to be the most well-rounded. This team is going for gold in Johnson City Tenn.

“Every team has their own philosophy, said Coach Grigg. “There are programs that choose to focus on one area such as distance events or field events. However, our philosophy is be balanced in all areas.”

The Dolphins will open the 2010 indoor season at the Jimmy Carnes Invitational on Jan. 30 in Gainesville, Fla. Last season, Jacksonville broke two school records and finished as the first team in five events at the invitational.

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The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun stands for achievement with integrity in both the academic and athletic arenas, with a focus on the balance between the two for our student-athletes. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.

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