For Greene County News
WILBERFORCE — Thursday will mark another milestone in the great history of Central State track & field as the men and women will compete in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship for the first time in school history.
“We are excited to compete at a tremendous venue and against some of the top competition in NCAA Division II athletics,” said CSU coach James Rollins. “We have had some solid results leading up to this week and we feel that our student-athletes are ready to perform to the best of their ability.”
Events begin on Thursday morning at the Irwin Belk Track & Field Center on the campus of Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. This year’s field includes men’s defending champion Morehouse College and 2015 women’s champion Benedict College. Other teams featured are the women of Claflin University and the Benedict men’s team. Both CU and BC have been in the top 20 of the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) rankings throughout the year.
“We know that it will be quite the challenge to contend for the overall title,” Rollins says. “We are going to focus on our strengths in individual competition and we will see where we stand by the end of the meet. I would expect to see Central State at or near the top in many of the events that we will compete in.”
Long jumper and sprinter Darin Gooch is expected to contend for the podium in his events. The sophomore from Cleveland posted a leap of 7.32 meters in the long jump earlier this season which is the top mark by any SIAC competitor thus far. He is also expected to run in the men’s 100-meter dash. The 100 is an event he has won four times in his collegiate career, which includes a Great Midwest Athletic Conference title last season.
“Darin will be someone that everyone keeps an eye on,” said Rollins. “His mark of 7.32 meters is impressive and we know he can do even better than that. He is well rested heading into this week and should deliver a great performance.”
Rollins has also been quick to praise the ability of Romario McKenzie, Cidni Latimer, Kalyn Brown, Devin Weems, Jamal Robinson, Nicole Gardner and a host of Central State athletes who have been working hard to improve heading into this week.
McKenzie, a sophomore from Jamaica, will compete in the 200-meter and 400-meter dash. McKenzie has finished in the top three in each event on four occasions, including a G-MAC winning time in the 200 dash last season.
“Romario wasn’t used to running in the 400 meter as a freshman, but he has come to embrace competing in the event,” Rollins said. “We fully expect him to perform well in South Carolina.”
Cidni Latimer, who picked up her seventh career victory in the 800 run last week, has been focused on building her confidence heading into this week. Latimer enters the week with the fifth-best time of conference runners this year at 2:21.60.
“Cidni has been a solid performer this year, but we have always felt that her best times are still ahead of her. She has the ability to be the best,” said Rollins. “Our coaching staff has been spending a lot of time working on the mental aspect and we feel she is starting to develop a winning mentality going into each race.”
Weems and Gardner posted their best performances in extremely cold conditions last week. Weems, a transfer who has only competed in three events thus far, has posted the fourth-best time of conference runners in the 1,500 with a 4:13.32. Gardner threw a career-best 26.42 meters in the javelin and hopes that the warm South Carolina weather aids in an even better performance.
Central State throwers Jamal Robinson and Kalyn Brown are projected to perform well in the shot put. Robinson threw 13.29 meters and won at Wittenberg last week. He enters the week with the fifth-best SIAC toss of the year thus far. Brown ranks fourth among all SIAC women in the event this year with a toss of 12.12 meters.
For additional information on this week’s SIAC Track & Field Championships, please visit thesiac.com.
Story written by CSU Sports Information Director Nick Novy.