INDIANAPOLIS- Performances by Texas A&M athletes competing in the Finish Line USA Junior Track and Field Championships turned into a medal collection for four Aggies.
Zuheir Sharif claimed gold as he won the men’s triple jump while Ashika Charan earned a silver medal in the women’s triple jump and A&M frosh-to-be Emalie Humphreys garnered silver in the javelin. Porscha Lucas picked up a bronze medal in the 200.
While Sharif secured a trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil, for the upcoming Pan-Am Junior Championships, Charan, Humphreys and Lucas put themselves in position to be selected for the team if extra competitors are selected to the U.S. Junior team from their respective events.
“Winning the national title is great, but the biggest gain I could get out of this meet was making the U.S. team for the Pan-Am Juniors,” Sharif said. “I really wanted the trip to Brazil.
“In comparing previous Olympic competitors, I noted many them started out doing well in juniors and making international teams. This is step one of hopefully many steps to come in the future.”
Another Aggie joining the program in August, Ohio’s Jessica Beard had the leading time in the 400 semifinals with a clocking of 53.77. A&M’s Sandy Wooten ran 55.19 for fifth place in her heat.
Beard, who has a best of 51.63 this season, recorded the only sub 54-second clocking in the four-section semi. She will draw the best lane in the final, which will be contested Saturday.
Upon receiving a gold medal for his effort on the day, Sharif noted: “I didn’t compete as well as I wanted to, but it still feels great. I came through with one big jump, so I’m thankful things fell into place for me. A national win isn’t too shabby.”
Sharif was the last jumper in the first three rounds and produced a mark of 50-6 ¼ (15.40) on his first attempt. It placed Sharif in second place, but two fouls followed to complete the preliminary stage.
When the order was reshuffled based on marks from qualifying, Sharif was the seventh of eight jumpers. In the fourth round he hit a mark of 52-0 ½ (15.86) to shoot into first place, passing the 51-0 effort Troy Doris had established as the leader in the first round of competition.
“Sometimes you have to be the dog chasing the cat and sometimes you’re the cat being chased,” Sharif said. “As far as being the leader for the final three rounds, I don’t mind that pressure at all. I like it.
“I don’t even mind if somebody throws a jump out there for me to chase. There’s always an element of surprise, you never know who will produce something from out of nowhere.”
Doris was the final jumper in each of the final three rounds. He responded to Sharif’s fourth-round mark with a 51-10 (15.80), but remained in second place. While Sharif fouled two more times, Doris reached 51-5 (15.67) in the fifth round and then bounded out to 51-10 ½ (15.81) for the final jump of the day.
“The biggest competitor is my alter-ego, the guy who keeps fouling all the jumps,” Sharif quipped. “If I can get him to stay on the board it shouldn’t be too bad at all.”
Only one other jumper surpassed 50 feet as Marlon Woods claimed third with a 50-1 ¾ (15.28). Both Doris and Woods recorded season best marks in their pursuit of Sharif, who entered the meet with the No. 8 mark on the current world junior list.
After placing third in the long jump on Thursday, Charan set a pair of career best marks in the triple jump to secure second place.
“Every time I compete at the junior nationals, it’s a good competition,” Charan noted. “So, it felt good to be here and compete so well.”
Opening with a 42-10 ¼ (13.06) bettered Charan’s previous best of 42-9 ½ (13.04) as she chased the event leader Ke’Nyia Richardson’s opening mark of 43-2 ½ (13.17). In the third round Charan improved to another career best of 43-0 ¼ (13.11).
“I was still aiming for first place so I could secure a spot on the U.S. junior team,” Charan said. “We’ll see what happens. I came here hoping to redeem myself from the NCAA meet a little bit. If I make the team, then great, but if I don’t I have the next year to look forward to.”
Richardson, who placed sixth in the AT&T USA Outdoor Championships the day before with a 44-4, returned to the junior level event and recorded a winning mark of 44-2 ½ (13.47) in the second round.
“It was a little intimidating, but I had to suck it up and keep competing,” Charan stated in regards to Richardson.
Humphreys, who is from Laredo, delivered her best mark on the first throw she took in the javelin. Her mark of 155-10 (47.51) was second to the 158-2 (48.21) recorded by Marissa Tschida, of Missoula, Montana.
Laura Asimakis of Friendswood, who joins A&M in August, placed ninth in the javelin with a best of 138-4 (41.26).
Lucas placed third with a windy time of 23.04 in the 200 final while teammate Khrystal Carter finished sixth in 23.73. Bianca Knight, a prep from Mississippi, won the race in 22.93 while Tennessee’s Lynne Layne was runner-up in 22.94.
In the semifinal Lucas clocked 23.93 to win the first of three sections. Carter was third in the final section, running a 24.12.
In the USA Championships, being held at the same complex, Texas A&M’s Jennifer Williams placed fifth in her heat of the 100 hurdles with a time of 13.50 and advanced to the next round. The semifinals will be held on Saturday.