GAINESVILLE -- Three Brenau University athletes will participate in the NAIA's 34th Annual Women's Outdoor Track & Field National Championships in Gulf Shores, Ala., May 22-24, 2014, following the Golden Tigers second consecutive Southern States Athletics Conference championship win.
Qualifiers for the national meet include freshman DeMichia Higgins in the 100-meter hurdles, sophomore Deishane' Honeycutt in 400-meter hurdles and sophomore Olamide Sokunbi in the 100- and 200-meter dash.
As it did a year ago in its inaugural season, the Brenau team dominated the SSAC championship in Gulf Shores last weekend, scoring 321.5 points to easily outpace second-place Emmanuel College of Franklin Springs, Ga., with its 110 points. Golden Tigers Head Track Coach Richard Ludwig also chalked up his second SSAC "Coach of the Year" honor.
However, when Ludwig takes his athletes back to Gulf Shores for nationals in May, it will be the first appearance by any Brenau track and field competitor in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Association top competition for the sport.
It is a significant development for Brenau, which started the track team in 2012 and participated in the first competitions starting last spring. But through Ludwig's aggressive recruiting and use of athletes in multiple specialties, the Golden Tigers applied talent and depth to score points in every event at the SSAC meet and to finish first in 14 of 21 contests.
On day two, Higgins won the 100-meter hurdles in 14.75 seconds. Freshman Jasmine Jones and Honeycutt finished fifth and seventh.
Dana Cole wrapped up her second title of the weekend as the sophomore captured first place in the hammer throw with a 33.59-meter toss. Freshman Rebecca Riddle's 31.16 meter throw was good for second. Golden Tigers juniors Devony Hemingway and Andrea Holloway also scored with their fourth- and eighth-place finishes in the strength event.
In the high jump, Jones won with a leap of 1.62 meters. Sophomore Snowie Saunders' 1.57-meter jump and Hemingway's 1.47 were good for second and eighth places.
Sophomore Aubrey Fearnow placed third in the shot put with a throw of 11.79 meters, while Hemingway and Cole tied for sixth place. Riddle also scored for the Golden Tigers with a tie for eighth place (9.85m).
In the triple jump, Brenau's superior depth was evident as Sokunbi captured second place while freshman Ismaelle Occeus, sophomore Jasmine Steen and Jones also scored with third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishes.
Sophomore Jasmine Ray continued the parade of first-place finishers, capturing the 3000-meter steeplechase title in 12:30.62. Teammate Tyana Luna, also a sophomore, and freshman Anahi Ruiz finished fourth and eighth.
In the 4x100-meter relay, the team of Occeus, freshman Cheyenne Wells, Steen and Sokunbi missed first place by 0.41 seconds.
However, sophomore Utami Ketchem added to the first-place finishers with her 5:04:38 1500-meter run. Freshman Natalie Williams finished fifth in 5:24:87.
Honeycutt's stellar weekend also included her winning the 400-meter in 57.83. Freshman Monika Nwajei placed sixth.
Sokunbi set a new conference record in both the 100- and 200-meter races. The sophomore won the 100-meter with a time of 11.75 while blazing to a 24.85 finish in the 200-meter. Wells also added to her impressive debut with a fourth-place finish in the 100 and seventh place in the 200.
In the 800-meter run, a pair of Golden Tigers finished a close second and third: Ketchem crossed the finish line in 2:29.11 and Ray in 2:29.70.
In the 400 hurdles, the Golden Tigers showed off depth with four runners scoring points, led by Honeycutt's first-place finish.
A trio of Golden Tigers scored in the 5000-meter as Williams finished third and juniors Brittany Aikens and Sarah Saenz finished fourth and fifth.
To cap off the meet, the team of Nwajei, freshman Anazjah Mayes, sophomore Amber Curney and Honeycutt cruised to a first-place win in the 4x400 relay.