Every athlete writes a fairy tale ending to their playing days, but very few get to realize that finish.
USC Upstate’s Justin Crawford got his opportunity on day one of the Atlantic Sun Conference Track & Field Championship. And he made the most of it, matching the meet record and breaking his own school record with a vault of 4.75 meters.
“It was a real emotional day because this was my last collegiate meet,” reflected Crawford.
The senior faced some stiff competition on his way to the title.
Wind was gusting behind and across the runway at Hodges Stadium to such a degree that many potential-record breaking performances in the vertical jumps and sprints will likely be nullified.
“The wind was a real factor, but I was just in the zone. I was mentally prepared to compete today,” Crawford said.
UNF David Shepherd was the overwhelming favorite to win on paper. His vault of 4.95m is the top performance in the conference this year, but Crawford cleared 4.75m meters on his first attempt to put the pressure on the freshman. Shepherd would fault on all three attempts at the height to help seal Crawford’s gold medal.
Finally, a rough start to the season had cast some doubt on his season.
“The season started out rough for him and we were concerned,” stated Spartans head coach Jimmy Stephens. “The UNF guys have been jumping great and it was a battle with the wind, but Justin was tough and ready to go.”
That doubt all seemed to disappear today.
“I thought I could do it. Everyone will tell you they can but to actually coming out here and do it is something else. I was really proud of myself,” said Crawford. “I haven’t been jumping very well this year, but it all came together the last two weeks. I am really glad it did.”
Coach Stephens wrapped it up well as he reflected on Justin’s Friday afternoon effort.
“It’s awesome. Justin has always been one of the most consistent vaulters I have ever coached. Every time it comes down to crunch time he is there and ready to go. Obviously, it was very emotional for him and I was really happy for him,” Stephens said.