William Jessup sends two to national meet

Warriors’ seventh year on big stage
By: Brianna Campbell for The Placer Herald/News Messenger
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For the seventh time and fifth season in a row, the William Jessup University track and field program is wheels up to the NAIA Track and Field Nationals in Gulf Shores, Ala., to compete with the top athletes in the country.

This year a pair of underclassman punched their ticket to the national competition, Tyler Southwood in the marathon and Vendela Williams in heptathlon.

Southwood will run in the 26.2-mile marathon. The sophomore earned his trip early in the season, turning in a 1-hour, 13:27-minute time in the Shamrock’n Half Marathon held in West Sacramento in March. His 5:37 per mile pace was good enough for the NAIA national standard to head to Alabama.

Distance coach Parker Daniells was impressed with Southwood's track and field season.

"Making nationals was a hard fought battle as he had to make two attempts in a half-marathon which is something no one wants to do in the middle of their season,” Daniels said. “Tyler kept composure, stuck to the plan we developed and made one of the greatest achievements you can in any sport, making it to nationals."

Throughout the track and field season, Southwood continued to train and compete in distance events. He was sixth overall in the Golden State Athletic Conference in the men's 10,000-meter run with his best finish of 33:47.58 at the ARC Invite and Distance Carnival.

"He has matured a lot through his running in a short span and grasping some very important concepts that will make him very successful in his future endeavors," Daniells concluded. "I am proud of Tyler and look forward to watching a great performance." 

Williams worked hard all season to improve her marks in each of the women’s heptathlon’s seven events. Competing in her first full event in late March at the 2018 American River Combined Events, Williams posted her first heptathlon score of 3,652, less than 300 points short of the national standard of 3,900.

Williams continued to compete in different events for the next month before taking her second shot at the heptathlon at the GSAC Championship. Williams went on to crush her previous score taking first place in the event to claim All-GSAC recognition. She set personal records in multiple events, finishing with an overall score of 4,035.

With a couple weeks left to qualify, Williams had to make it into the top 16 in the country to maintain her marks for nationals. Her last chance was during a meet at the Azusa Pacific Twilight and Multi's May 10.

Williams, again, broke her personal-best marks in each of the seven events. She improved her score to 4,348, solidifying her spot at nationals and breaking into the country’s top 16.

Head coach Veronica Graves said Williams’ hard work has gotten her to where she is now.

"From learning how to do new events to trusting the vision and process, Vendela has made massive strides in one season,” Graves said, “and now she's ranked 13th in the country for the women's track and field heptathlon."

Graves went on it say Williams’ goals haven’t stopped there.

"Her goal now is finishing top eight to attain the highest recognition possible in intercollegiate athletics, NAIA All-American."

Competition for Williams will start Thursday at 10:30 a.m., where her first day of competition will be the 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200m. Friday morning, she will wrap up the heptathlon with the long jump, javelin and 800m, followed by the award ceremony. 

Southwood will race on Saturday with the gun sounding at 6 a.m.