New faces making big contributions for Rams women’s track

New faces making big contributions for Rams women’s track
February 25
00:00 2016
Above: Aaliyah Craft and Jenele Terry

Winning back-to-back conference titles is never easy, regardless of how much experience is on a team’s roster. In those situations where championships are won with a lot of new faces, the degree of difficulty to achieve victory is multiplied.

That’s the case for Winston-Salem State’s women’s track program, which claimed another team title at the CIAA Indoor Track and Field Championships last week. Yes, there were key returnees on hand to help lead the way. Domtila Kiplagat, voted CIAA women’s MVP for the meet, set the tone by winning the mile plus the 3,000-meter run and she anchored WSSU’s victorious Distance Medley Relay.

Even so, the contributions of five freshmen made a huge difference as the champion Rams edged second-place Johnson C. Smith 120-110 in the points race for the trophy.

“Obviously the team did extremely well, and it happened with a lot of help from our freshman,” said Turner. “It was such a blessing for this team to pull themselves through to win this championship. It wasn’t an easy one (to win).”

Entering the indoor season, it wasn’t clear how Turner might find a way to replace the talent and leadership of nine seniors who graduated. In most cases, getting a handle on how freshmen will handle college-level competition can be tricky. Other than putting them to the competitive test, there’s no way to know for sure.

In this instance, the college rookies – Sh’Naiya Chapman, Jenele Terry, Halvandra McNeill and Aaliyah Craft (Walkertown graduate) – made their presence felt.

“I’ve won seven championships here and this one is very special,” said Turner. “It’s special because last year, I graduated all of the athletes who came in with me, which was over half the team. But we were able to rebuild and bring in some freshmen who really stepped up to the plate. That makes me very proud of everyone.

“Looking ahead, I believe our team has a bright future. This year, what our athletes have learned is that it’s in them (winning championships).”

There’s still three weeks remaining in the winter season before the NCAA Division II indoor national track and field championships on March 11-12 in Pittsburg, Kan. For the time being, though, it’s not certain if any Rams will make the trip.

The most likely candidates to compete at the nationals are provisional qualifiers Raven Covington (CIAA runner-up in the 60-meter dash) and the 4×400 relay foursome of Tametris Morrison, Ty-Leah Hampton, Taska Johnson and Fazwia Kheir.

Athletes can qualify for the NCAA championships by making the automatic qualifying standard or on a provisional basis. Automatic qualifiers have a guaranteed spot at the nationals.

To go as a provisional qualifier in the women’s competition, individuals must be ranked among the nation’s top 17 in their respective events. Relay teams are required to rank among the top 12. As of Feb. 21, Covington was ranked 10th nationally at 60 meters and the Rams 4×400 relay was 20th.

WSSU athletes have one more opportunity to better their performances in an effort to enhance their chances to make the provisional cut for the nationals. The Rams will compete in the Mason Last Chance Meet on Sunday at George Mason University in Virginia.

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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