Monday, May 20, 2013

Charlene Charles Making a Name in the A-Sun

The Atlantic Sun Track & Field record books have been a running diary for the progression of Charlene Charles’ career at Jacksonville.

Charles, a multi-faceted student-athlete, appears in the conference archives on 62 occasions when combining both the indoor and outdoor championships. Entering the 2013 A-Sun Outdoor Championship, Charles had compiled 20 medals including nine first-place finishes, seven runner-up honors and four bronze medal performances.

However, before this year’s championship she had never competed in her best event – the heptathlon.

What prevented Charles from competing wasn’t an injury, but rather her desire to help the team continue its streak of conference championships which dates back to 2006. Jacksonville totals 15-straight A-Sun conference titles when combining the indoor and outdoor crowns.

“This is the first time she has competed in her best event, the heptathlon, in the A-Sun Championship,” stated Charles’ Head Coach Ron Grigg. “She has always foregone her specialty to help our team by competing in more events and scoring more points for the team.”

Her absence in the heptathlon changed on day one of the championship, as she started off the conference meet with wins in two events – the 100-meter hurdles (14.51) and the 200m dash (25.97). Building a 91-point lead heading into day two, Charles added a win in the long jump (5.52m) to cruise to a 303-point victory for her 21st career A-Sun medal.

It wasn’t clear whether or not Charles would be able to compete during her senior season at the A-Sun Outdoor Championship as she suffered an injury at the Indoor NCAA National Championship. The injury kept Charles away competition and training for the outdoor season until the A-Sun Championship where she made her debut.

“Charlene wasn’t seriously training for outdoors until about three weeks ago and she wants to do all this for her team,” said Grigg.

By the end of the day on Saturday, Charles had competed in five events and racked up 21.5 points for the Dolphins as Jacksonville cruised to its eighth-straight conference outdoor title and 16th A-Sun track & field crown.

“I just worked hard building up to conference and thought about my teammates," said Charles. "Even through my injury I wanted to score enough points to win the heptathlon and then still be able to compete in more events.”

During her battle to recover from the injury from the NCAA Championship, Charles knew that her teammates would be counting on her not only to score points at the A-Sun meet, but also provide leadership to a roster that features a majority of underclassmen.

“I’m so my proud of my team and the effort that they showed,” Charles said of the Dolphins’ championship performance. “I believe in my team I will do anything for my team.”

Charles expounded on her role with the team.

“I tried to be a leader for my teammates this year since I was a senior, and I’m hoping that I set a good example and that they will want to follow in my footsteps.”

Despite her struggle to return to the track in the weeks leading up to the conference meet, Charles continued to succeed in the classroom, while also building towards her career after Jacksonville. 

“Charlene is obviously a very talented athlete, but she is also a great student as well as she just graduated cum laude with a 3.8 cumulative GPA and has several internships lined up in New York. So she is a great kid all the way around.”

Grigg knows that Charles will continue to succeed even after her time is over at Jacksonville because of her desire to be successful.

“She is a self-made woman, she studies harder than everybody else to go along with being an editor for our school newspaper. She works on her own to find internships in the fashion industry both in Jacksonville and now in New York City, and she will be successful at whatever she chooses to do because she chooses to do it.”

Reflecting on her time at JU, Charles noted that her attitude changed once she entered the Dolphins program.

“Before I came to America, I wasn’t a great student but our coaching staff has a saying to 'Seek excellence in everything that you do' and I took that to heart.”

Charles proved last weekend and throughout her career that individual and team success can go hand-in-hand in track & field, leaving North Florida’s Hodges Stadium with a gold medal and the eighth conference title of her career.

“I don’t think any words can really justify what she has meant to our program.”

Words may not be able to describe Charles’ impact on the Jacksonville program, but numbers tend to show its affect. Here is a list of Charles' accomplishments in her four-year career:

10 – A-Sun Gold Medalist
7 – A-Sun Silver Medalist
4 – A-Sun Bronze Medalist
4 – Academic All-Conference

2 – A-Sun Indoor Track and Field Championship MVP (2010, 2011)
2 – Most Outstanding Field Performer (2010, 2011)
2 – Most Outstanding Freshman Performer
1 – A-Sun Outdoor Track and Field Championship MVP (2010)
1 – Most Outstanding Track Performer (2010)

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