Women’s Track Enjoys Strong Start to Season

Sean Okula, Staff Writer

With championship meets fast approaching, the heart of the track and field team’s indoor schedule has begun.

The squad competed in its third competition in as many weeks at the Dr. Sander Invitational Columbia Challenge this weekend. The 15th place finish may seem pedestrian, but when compared to the quality of the event’s field, the coaching staff was pleased.

“Our ladies hung tough with some of the top programs in the NCAA,” assistant coach John McCree told RedStormSports.com. “It was a good tune-up for us heading into the Metropolitan Championships next week.”

It’s a grind through the density of the winter schedule. The women face six meets in the four weeks from the middle of January through the beginning of February. The team’s finish at the Indoor Mets can serve as a fine point of reference as the conference championships loom.

First and third place finishes at the Lions Indoor Invitational and the Penn 8-Team Select set the pace for the indoor swing. Six new personal bests were set, including senior sprinter Destiny Davis’ 24.75 in the 200m and jumper Ja’Tae Joyner’s new marks in both the triple jump (11.79m) and long jump (5.79m).

“Coach John McCree’s throwers and Coach Aliann Pompey’s sprinters are the real deal,” Coach Jim Hurt said after taking the crown at the Lions Invitational. “It’s a great way to kick off the 2019 season and bodes well for good things to come as the season progresses.”

Those talented dashers faced turnover. Maya Stephen’s graduation left a void the size of the sprinter’s usual lead in a 400m. Expectation called for Leah Anderson to shoulder the burden.

The then-freshman burst onto the collegiate scene in 2018 with first place finishes in the 200m and 400m at her first meet. She and Stephens teamed up for a dominating 4x400m victory at last year’s Metropolitan Indoor Championships.

The sophomore has taken her leadership role in stride. She tore up the Lions Invitational, nabbing first place in runnings of both the 200m and 400m, before doubling down with a Big East Track Athlete of the Week-worthy performance at the Penn 8-Team Select. Anderson’s 55.93 400m is tops in the Big East this season and she’s qualified for the ECAC Championships in both the 200m and 400m.

The sprinter hasn’t been the only athlete worthy of conference recognition. Senior weight thrower Jennifer Odoemene earned Big East honors with her ECAC-qualifying 18.18m throw at the Bill Ward Invitational. The freshman Joyner backed her up with those personal bests at the Lions Invitational, and with Anderson, the Johnnies have taken the season’s first three Athlete of the Week honors.