The JMU track and field team doesn’t electrify campus. Students don’t stand in huddles discussing how the team will perform at the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament or who’ll qualify for the NCAA final meet. However, the team, like silent professionals, continues to inch its way toward a memorable season.
The Dukes started their season with stellar performances at the Father Diamond Invitational on Jan. 5 in Fairfax, Virginia. With three ECAC qualifiers from seniors Dominique Johnson and Sidra Morris and junior Alexys Taylor and a staggering 19 top-10 finishes, the Dukes set a high standard for their following meets. So far, they’ve managed to continually surpass it.
Once again, at the Marshall Women’s Classic on Jan. 12, the team established more ECAC qualifiers. Additionally, Morris set a new school record in the weight throw with an 18.10 m (59’ 4.75”) toss.
“It was great, and I was really excited,” Morris said. “I actually knew the girl who had the record before me. She was here when my sister ran here.”
In addition to the record-breaking performances and ECAC-qualifying times are the outstanding performances of the freshmen on the team. This season, freshman Lauren Smith set a personal best in the 60 m dash while freshman Sinead Sargeant featured on the Distance Medley Relay team that qualified for the ECAC.
College track and field is different than in high school. It’s more competitive, harder and the practices and competitions are more intense. The pressure is more pronounced, but the freshmen appear to be unphased by the transition by the way they’re setting personal bests each meet.
“I think the team has a great attitude,” Johnson said. “We’re all really close. Every time we bring a new freshman group in, we bring them in really close and get really close with them ‘cause we want them to be a part of something great and keep the program in an upward trend. No freshman hazing.”
The team’s culture is a huge reason why JMU has had such a great start. When everyone is involved, breaking boundaries, setting new goals and encouraging their teammates to do the same, success is only natural.
“I think it’s amazing,” Taylor, who set a meet record in the 60 m dash at the Marshall Classic, said. “Especially because college isn’t just a whole different setting teamwise. Overall, school, friends, [everything is different], and so for them to be performing so well, I feel like they’re handling the pressure very, very well.”
While some athletes and programs may stop to admire their success, the track and field team has its eyes locked firmly ahead. The team is focused on one thing — improvement — which means no resting on any laurels yet.
“I still want to keep moving forward and PR-ing and keep moving up,” Johnson said. “I’m mostly worried about spring. We’re just [going to] keep pushing toward spring and hopefully we’ll win the CAA conference. That’s what we’re really looking forward to, [but we need to] just keep improving every meet.”
The Dukes are doing just that, and hope to be surging toward one of their most memorable seasons in years. Their next outing is at the Liberty Kick-Off, a two-day meet beginning Friday.
Contact Michael Turner at email@example.com. For more track and field coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.