Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hall Brings Home Gold Medal for Daughter

At the 2009 Atlantic Sun Women’s Indoor Track & Field Championships, Jacksonville’s Ronnisha Hall became the first in meet history to win both the shot put and weight throw at the same championship winning both in record fashion. She did not defend her titles because she took a redshirt year for the 2010 season. However, she didn’t miss a year of competition because of any kind of injury, but rather to go through pregnancy with her daughter, Madison.

At the encouragement of her coaches and her teammates, especially the fellow Dolphin throwers, Hall rejoined team for the 2011 indoor season. Returning to the A-Sun Championships, Hall entered with the top mark in the shot put and the second-best distance in the weight throw.

“The team pushed hard; because they kept calling during the summer asking ‘Are you coming back? Are you coming back?’” she said. “They made sure I came back and finished, not only to come back to track, but also to finish school. The throwers group [urged hardest] because they mean a lot to me and they told me I made a big impact on them. ”

All mothers seek to regain the form they held prior to giving birth. For Hall, in addition to returning to form physically, she had to return to the athletic form that produced those two Indoor titles.

“[Returning] took time because at first I had hip problems and then after I got past that [injury], I had knee problems,” she said. “It was hard getting back into shape but I made it and it got me first place!”

For all student-athletes, balancing school work with time dedicated to their sport can often prove plenty taxing. Adding motherhood to daily responsibilities put a premium on Hall’s time. Luckily she had willing assistance by her side.

“The balance is so hard, it’s so hard,” Hall said. “Right now, she is staying home with my sister right now. When she’s…with me, my teammates really help me out with watching her while I go to class – they help babysit. It’s like I have 40 babysitters. I pay them with [time] with Madison, they love her, so that’s the price.”

On Friday, she lost out on the shot put by 0.38 meters as teammate, Hillary Crook, won the event for a third time. Hall took second in the event. On Saturday, Hall finally reclaimed the top spot at an A-Sun Championship turning in a record-setting throw in the weight toss of 18.96 meters on her final attempt of the meet.

She topped Campbell’s Jessica Dunston, the woman who entered the A-Sun Championship with the conference’s best mark of the season, by more than a meter. Hall’s Saturday-morning win jumpstarted an onslaught of individual victories scored by the Dolphins on Saturday, as they eased to a sixth-straight A-Sun Indoor crown.

“It was tough today, because I thought [Dunston] was going to get me,” Hall said after the victory. “I tried to qualify for Nationals, but as long as I got my [personal record] and did my best”

Hall has not performed in front of Madison yet, but when the Outdoor Championships head to Jacksonville and the campus of UNF, she’ll be able to perform in front of her youngest fan.

“She’s got her JU onesie, bibs, hats and everything,” Hall said. “She is ready to come and be my number one fan.”

Different Starts Lead to Similar End

Six Gold Medals. Four Runner-Up Finishes. Two Third-Place Performances.

That is the combined Atlantic Sun Indoor Championship throwing careers of seniors Joe Frye and Jarrod Burton.

A specialist in the weight throw, Belmont’s Frye started with the throwing squad as a walk-on in 2007 out of Roscommon, Mich., in search of a Music Business degree more so than A-Sun glory, but ended his A-Sun Indoor Championship career today with back-to-back titles in the weight throw to go along with a silver and bronze medal in the shot put.

“Coming into Belmont, I didn’t really get recruited out of high school and I actually came for the academics and didn’t even know weight throw was an event, he said.” “To see where I started my career at Belmont and to see how much that can change a person is impressive.”

ETSU’s Burton started out his career on top of the podium for the weight throw in 2007 and added a shot third-place finish. Now the Bastian, Va., native stands as the most decorated A-Sun Indoor thrower with eight total medals after passing Kennesaw State’s Joshua McNair seven-medal count this season.

“I would have liked…to pull out the win in weight, but I’ve never had more fun competing than in this year’s championship by being right in the thick of things and losing or winning by just inches,” Burton said. “I’ve enjoyed my time at ETSU under my coaches and throwing in this facility so it has been a great experience and I couldn’t have asked for more.”

After finishing first and third in the shot put in day one of the 2011 A-Sun Indoor Championship, the duo entered Saturday’s weight throw final as the favorites to earn the top-two spots. The pair more than delivered on expectations with both breaking the A-Sun meet record before Frye capped the day with a final record-setting heave of 19.50 meters to edge Burton for the gold.

“I knew it was going to be a battle between us here because of the success we achieved during the season and I started off with a great throw to break the record,” reflected Frye. “But I started to lose a little bit of my form and (Burton) started to post better tosses and then came up with a big throw to pass me and set the new record. So going into my second-to-last throw I knew I had to go big and leave it all on the table to win the event and thankfully I rose to the occasion.”

The pair could not have started on more different paths, but the duo embraced the A-Sun’s philosophy of “Building Winners for Life” to provide one of the highlights of the Atlantic Sun Indoor Championships.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pearce's Will Results Wins On and Off the Track

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - For UNF senior Will Pearce his focused has not centered on his upcoming competition at the 2011 Atlantic Sun Men’s Track & Field Championships, but rather on impressing interviewees at prospective medical schools.

Pearce, a biology major with a 3.9 grade-point average, only recently learned he had been accepted to the University of South Florida’s medical school, home to one of the nation’s top neurosurgery departments in the country.

“I heard I was getting into medical school [on Feb. 9] and it was such a relief of my shoulders,” he said. “All summer it was hard to focus - I had to run by myself because I was studying for the M-CAT all day and all night. All during cross country I was…busy with applications and now I’ve been busy with interviews through the winter – I’ve still got a couple coming up – but to hear that I’m in at a good school, USF is ranked very highly for what I want to do, it’s takes a monster weight off my chest.”

Nine days after learning of his acceptance to USF, Pearce tracked down USC Upstate’s Gilbert Kemboi - the A-Sun’s defending champion and record holder of the 3000-meter run - in the final backstretch to claim his first individual indoor gold medal. Less than two hours later, Pearce anchored UNF’s Distance Medley Relay team to a win.
Pearce - a mile runner by trade - had twice finished third in his specialty event at prior Indoor Championships. Trailing Kemboi throughout the 3000-meter run, Pearce cut the margin to a single stride in the closing laps. He overtook the reigning champion on the backstretch then used a strong kick to claim the win. In the process, he narrowly missed erasing Kemboi from the record book, finishing less than seven-tenths of a second off the Spartan’s record pace of a season ago.

“Will is on a high right now,” UNF head coach Mark VanAlstyne said. “He came in with some pretty big expectations and so far he has lived up to them and don’t count him out of anything [Saturday]. He’s a competitor to the bone and I’m going to be really sad when he’s gone.”

Pearce’s journey to the winner’s circle began after leaving Florida. He became a Gator as a preferred walk-on, but left the program for UNF after getting caught up in a numbers game at Florida. His family, devout Gator fans who had taken Will to countless football games at “The Swamp” struggled to see their son leave the program.

“I was still pretty upset about leaving,” Pearce said. “Until I starting being their runners.”

While Pearce already has his acceptance to USF, among the schools he could still enroll at includes Florida, a return he would welcome, as he still has many friends in Gainesville.

Charles in Charge at Indoors

No one expected a marathon on the first day of the A-Sun Indoor Track & Field Championship except maybe Charlene Charles and her head coach Ron Grigg.

The JU standout dominated competition from the sound of the gun to start the pentathlon at 8:30 a.m. until her final leap in the high jump at 7 p.m. In between, she competed in five events where she racked up 28 points to stake the Dolphins a 25-point lead at the conclusion of day one.

Watch Charles Video Interview

“I knew today would feel like a decathlon ,” reflected Charles. “The combined events are my specialty so that is ok with me. But I am tired though.”

Anticipating a hard charge from River City rival UNF, Grigg used his entries aggressively in an attempt to run the team’s championship streak to six-straight titles. That meant a heavy dose of Charles.

“The University of North Florida is a very good team and we are trying our best to win the championship,” Grigg state while discussing his liberal use of the standout. “We needed to put up a lot of points and try to get away from them a little bit before the end of the meet. I’m not sure we can match them in the 5000-meters and the 4x4 (1600m relay). Plus she is really good.”

She makes that evident when you review the quality of today’s effort. A record-setting performance in the pentathlon opened the onslaught. Charles followed with a second place showing in the long jump. The sophomore then posted the second-fastest time in the 60m hurdle preliminaries and won her heat in the 60-meter dash preliminaries before claiming the high jump title as well. Her 28 points would outscore over half of the teams by itself.

“Not only is she talented, but she is also fiercely competitive. That is a big part of what makes her so good,” commented Grigg. “I wanted her to take a couple fewer long jumps to conserve energy, but she wouldn’t stop because she wasn’t winning. She is an inspiration to the rest of her team.”

Charles sees more work on the horizon tomorrow as she will appear in the triple jump, 60m dash finals, 60m hurdles final and the 4x400m relay. Despite the long day on Friday, Charles thinks she will be ready for championship Saturday.

“I need to take care of myself mentally and physically tonight. With the right preparation, I will be able to go 100 percent tomorrow,” stated Charles.

With North Florida lurking, another MVP-caliber effort may be needed from Charles for Jacksonville to lift another trophy.