WSSU keeps ‘pushing to the top’ in women’s track

WSSU keeps ‘pushing to the top’ in women’s track
June 11
00:00 2015

In photos above: Raven Hamilton, left, and Domtila Kiplagat (Photos by Craig T. Greenlee)
When it comes to women’s cross-country and track and field, this past school year was arguably the most productive in recent memory at Winston-Salem State University.

At the national level, the Lady Rams had seven athletes to earn All-America honors (indoors and outdoors) in individual events and relays. At last month’s NCAA Division II outdoor meet, WSSU posted a 12th-place team finish, the best ever in school history.

For the second year in a row, the Lady Rams placed second in the nation in the 4×100 relay. The foursome of Tajanel McNeill, Raven Covington, Nya Michaux and Ty-Leah Hampton overcame problems with baton passes to run a personal-best time of 45.5 seconds.

Conference-wise, Coach Inez Turner’s squad, comprised mostly of middle-distance track runners, finished one point short of sharing the CIAA cross-country title with Lincoln University (Pennsylvania). This past winter, WSSU flexed its collective muscle by winning the CIAA indoor championships. The Lady Rams made a strong run at the league outdoor team trophy, but finished as runners-up behind Saint Augustine’s.

    Turner readily admits that she’s pleased with all three facets of the program. But she makes it clear that she’s far from being satisfied. “With all that’s been accomplished, I feel happy, blessed and honored,” she said. “But I also know that we have to keep working and keep pushing our way to the top. We’re not there yet.”

     Even though WSSU loses nine seniors from this year, there’s more than enough returning talent to assure that the program continues to grow. Five of the seven Lady Rams All-American just completed their sophomore seasons.

    “The foundation has been laid,” said Turner. “This program is going in the right direction. A lot of credit goes to our seniors. They left a footprint and provided a legacy for this program. Next year, we’re looking to win all three CIAA championships and have a better showing at the indoor and outdoor nationals. We’ve developed a process here, and it works.

    “The easy part is putting together the track workouts. The big challenge is establishing discipline, so that they push themselves every day in practice. They’ve started to realize that the end results have a lot to do with what they do on a daily basis. We continue to provide encouragement so that they truly understand what it takes to be a champion.”

     The Lady Rams got a big boost from two promising prospects this past season. Since both are underclassmen who figure to be around for a few seasons. Raven Hamilton, a sophomore, continued to improve as she gained more race experience at the 800-meter distance. Domtila Kiplagat, a freshman distance runner from Kenya, made an immediate impact after she joined the team in January.

     Hamilton came to WSSU as a 200/400 sprinter from Greensboro Southern Guilford. Turner convinced Hamilton to move up to the 800 and the switch paid off handsomely.

     In her first year as a novice half-miler, Hamilton placed second at the CIAA indoor meet.  Two months later, she beat the conference indoor champ (Domenique Julian-Williams of Johnson C. Smith) by .11 seconds to take the CIAA outdoor 800 title (2 minutes, 12.34 seconds). Hamilton also ran on the 4×400 relay that delivered a top-5 finish at the Division II outdoor nationals.

     “Raven Hamilton pushed herself and she listened,” said Turner. “Those are the main reasons why she ended up being an All-American. There’s no question that greater things are in store for her.”

      Within one month after her arrival, Kiplagat proved herself as a budding star by winning the 3,000 meters at the indoor championships and anchoring the Lady Rams first-place distance-medley relay team. Kiplagat also qualified for indoor nationals in the 5,000 and finished 18th. During the spring, Kiplagat won the 1,500 and 3,000-meter races at the conference outdoor championships.

      “Domtila came in and we threw her right into the fire,” said Turner. “What she was able to accomplish in four months is unbelievable. I can’t wait to see what she’ll be able to do with a full season of training. She’s a tough-minded athlete whose future is very bright.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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