Tech approaches top form, wraps up indoor regular season at Samford Bulldog Open

Tech approaches top form, wraps up indoor regular season at Samford Bulldog Open

By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Just 11 days away from attempting to repeat as Ohio Valley Conference indoor champions, the Tennesssee Tech track and field team made the most of its final opportunity to get ready, posting high marks across the board at the Samford Bulldog Open.

"We performed well this weekend," said head coach Wayne Angel. "Overall, I thought we competed at a high level."

Tech produced four victories over the weekend, starting with Raven Smith, who once again broke the TTU indoor triple jump record on Saturday afternoon.

Just like last week, Smith eclipsed the 12-meter mark, leaping 12.05 meters (39 feet, 6 1/2 inches) this time around to take the top spot among 23 jumpers.

It's the first career triple jump victory for the Atlanta native, whose mark sits at No. 2 on the OVC Indoor Performance List.

D'Airrien Jackson took home her first victory of the season and third of her indoor career in the 400 meters in truly dominant fashion.

Jackson circled the track in 54.79 seconds, which created an incredibly large margin of more than two seconds between her and the second-place finisher, Payton Barlow of Belmont.

"It was great to see D'Airrien getting back into form," Angel said. "She was incredible today."

The 2018 OVC indoor runner-up is now atop the conference's indoor list for the event, and is the only athlete to finish in less than 55 seconds this year. She owns a sizable gap of .62 seconds over the league's second-best mark.

Her 54.79 actually beat her time of 54.89 that won her second place at the OVC meet last year.

Purity Sanga was the next Golden Eagle to claim supremacy, running the 3,000 meters in a personal-best 9-minutes, 35.36 seconds.

Sanga was head-and-shoulders above the rest of the pack, coming in more than 24 seconds ahead of any other entrant. Her time, which equated to her first career victory in the 3K, widens her lead as the No. 1 on the OVC Indoor List to almost 22 seconds, and maintains her status as the league's best in the mile run, the 3,000 meters and the 5,000 meters.

"Purity was phenomenal today," Angel said. "She completely destroyed the field, lapping all but one competitor. She is going to be a force to be reckoned with at the OVC Championships."

Lisa Wickham, who has been extremely impressive in the 60 meters all year long, took the day's final victory.

Wickham maintained the top position in all three rounds of the 60-meter race at the Bulldog, taking the best preliminary time of 7.61 seconds, the best semifinal time of 7.52 seconds, and finished with a 7.48 to take the title.

The victory was Wickham's second this year and fourth all-time. Her 7.48 in the finals was .08 seconds faster than the runner-up and comes in as her third-best time this season.

Wickham also took a second-place finish in the 200 meters on Friday night, clocking a 24.41-second sprint that was also a new personal best for either an indoor or outdoor setting. It was her third top-five finish in the 200 this year.

Ceirra Tate ran with Wickham in the 200, and placed 11th out of 67 runners with a season-best mark of 25.46 seconds.

Na'Scottisha Drummond tied for second place in the high jump on Friday night, finishing as one of five competitors to spring 1.65 meters (5-5) on their first attempt. It was the third time this season that Drummond finished in the top two in the high jump.

Drummond competed in the triple jump as well, taking an indoor personal best of 11.22 meters. It was the first time that Drummond eclipsed the 11-meter mark at an indoor meet.

Khemani Roberts placed second in the long jump on Saturday morning, soaring 5.62 meters. While Roberts has won the long jump on several occasions as part of the pentathlon, her runner-up finish at the Bulldog was her best in the standalone event. It also comes in as the third-best mark this season for Roberts, who owns the No. 4 spot on the OVC list with a 5.72-meter leap (18-9 1/4).

Tech's 4x400-meter relay squad, made up of Jackson, Roberts, Wickham and Tate, took its best time of the indoor year, finishing in 3:49.86. That group took second place to Austin Peay's relay team, which clocked a 3:49.14. Those two times are the new Nos. 1 and 2 on the OVC Performance List.

Roberts also competed in the 60-meter hurdles and advanced to the semifinal round with a prelim time of 9.18 seconds. She followed up with a 9.22 in the semis, which left her short of the mark to qualify for the finals.

Jackson and Tate ran with Wickham in the 60-meter prelims and made the semifinal round with times of 7.87 seconds and 7.91 seconds, respectively.

The time marked a new personal best for Jackson, who then reset her top mark in the semis with a time of 7.85 seconds. Tate was right behind her with a 7.86. The pair came in 11th and 12th, respectively, narrowly missing the eight-member finals section.

"Sprinters and jumpers are looking fantastic," said Angel. "Lisa, Raven, Khemani and Na'Scottisha continue to shine every time they compete."

Janet Kwambai joined Sanga in the 3,000 meters, placing 11th out of 39 athletes with a time of 10:22.54. The time was just over three seconds behind her career best of 10:19.13, which is 14th-best in the OVC this year.

Teauna Anderson and Jordan Toney each recorded personal bests alongside Jackson in the 400 meters.

Anderson's new best was nearly a full second faster than her previous one, as she completed the race in 1:01.15.

Toney did almost the same thing, beating her previous mark of 1:03.11 with a time of 1:02.20.

Alexa Brugere won her section in the 800 meters, and placed 11th overall out of 47 runners. She made a significant improvement on her previous top mark of 2:23.14, finishing in 2:20.32.

Courtney McCowan was with Brugere, as she has been for most of the indoor season, and clocked an indoor personal best of 2:37.03.

Sharon Chepkemboi and Vivien Chesire took part in the mile run at the Bulldog, with Chepkemboi posting a new personal best of 5:25.15. Chesire came along after at 5:49.22.

Keyanna Word was Tech's lone representative in a throwing event, and just missed her personal best in the shot put, recording a 9.16-meter heave (30- 0 3/4).

Overall, Angel is happy with the journey his group has made to get to this point.

"I am so proud of this team," he said. "Their pursuit of excellence is what defines who they are, as we now lead the OVC in seven different events. They won't settle for less."

"We came here with a purpose and exceeded most of our goals today. Obviously, I wished we could have stepped it up a little more in some areas, but we still have time to fix those things. The good thing is that we are peaking at the right time."