Track and Field's Young Lions Leave Mark in Record Books

May 4, 2007

When Marcia Mansur-Wentworth speaks about UCF pride, she may well be referring to her record-breaking freshmen athletes rather than her allegiance to the Black and Gold.

"Runner's World magazine used to run a feature about young, up-and-coming athletes that was called `Young Lions'," explained Mansur-Wentworth, who is in her 13th year at the helm of the Knights' track and field program. "That is what I call this group of freshmen - the young lions. They have made an amazing impact on this year's team."

Mansur-Wentworth's excitement is understandable as these cubs have sounded a roar that has been heard beyond the UCF campus. Through mid-April, they had broken nine UCF freshman records - most at least five years or older. Their names also appeared among the top three all-time personal bests at UCF nine times, in events ranging from sprints to throws to distance.

The first to draw her claws and take a swipe at the record books was Jenny Clausen. After earning all-conference honors at the 2006 Conference USA Cross Country Championships, the New Jersey native's success continued during the indoor track season as she broke the school's freshman record in the 3,000m and 5,000m. Her 5,000m time of 17:26.27 gave her sixth place at the C-USA Indoor Championships, a performance that still ranks high among her personal list of accomplishments.

"Placing sixth at conference in the 5,000m was amazing," Clausen said. "It was also exciting to be in New York and get near the 17-minute mark in the 5,000m for the first time. Being able to go to the big meets and compete makes me proud. I want to just keep doing well."

Clausen opened the outdoor season by breaking her own record in the 5,000m at the Disney Invitational. Even more recently, she established a new freshman mark in the 10,000m at the Sea Ray Relays and broke her own record in the 3,000m at the Golden Knight Twilight. In every instance, Clausen's name has replaced that seven-time all-conference honoree Sonja Shedden.

"I look up to Sonya and I have a great deal of respect for her and what she means to this program," said Clausen. "I would really like to meet her one day because she really is a role model for me. I want to follow in her footsteps."

Following a similar road, LaKendra Thames also set the stage for her season by debuting with a mark of 47-feet, 6.50 inches in the weight throw. She would eventually better that by over two inches to break the freshman record at Indiana's Gladstein Invitational at the end of January.

In the second meet of the outdoor season - the USF Bull Invitational, Thames claimed the UCF rookie record in the shot put at 45-7.75. The following month at the Florida Relays, she took the freshman record in the discus at 149-10 then shattered UCF's overall record in the event with a throw of 160-3 a week later. That effort not only earned second place at the Miami Invitational but also qualified her for the NCAA East Regional.

"For me, the key has been hard work at practice," said Thames. "It is important to me to take the mindset from practice to the meet. I think that has helped me become better. I'm proud of how all of the throwers have been doing this year. We have been raising the bar every time we go into a meet."

Thames' classmate Jessica Francis has also performed well. She owns the Knights' second best effort in the discus and third best mark in the shot put.

Like Clausen, Thames has been erasing a well-known name from the record books that of three-time NCAA Regional qualifier Tiffany Roebuck.

"Lakendra and Jenny are rewriting records of two of the most successful athletes who ever lined up in a UCF uniform," said Mansur-Wentworth. "We've got two very special young women who are not only dedicated but also compete at the highest level. I see similarities between them and can't wait to watch them continue to excel in their respective events."

Yet another name has written her name along side the best sprinters in UCF history. Feyisara Adaramola owns the freshman records in the 55m, 60m, 100m and 200m dashes - one for each month of the season. The first came at the indoor opener, the UF Collegiate Invitational. She felled the second in her hometown of New York City at the New Balance Invitational.

"Definitely my proudest moment thus far has been breaking my own personal record in the 60m," said Adaramola. "Being in New York really helped me because I was in my hometown and I felt a little more pressure. I was able to take advantage of that."

Despite being hampered by an injury at the start of the outdoor season, Adaramola has quickly made up for time lost. Not only did she break the freshman records in the 100m and 200m but she is also listed at third all-time in both events. She is second in the 55m and 60m.

Although she took a different path toward success in her rookie campaign, Stephanie Knapp hasn't been removed excitement. The native of Englewood, Fla. walked on to the Knights' track team as a middle distance runner and currently owns the second-best time in the 800m, a personal-best 2:15.27. She was part of the magic at the Disney Invitational when she ran the anchor leg for UCF's record-breaking 4x800m and sprint medley relays.

"Stephanie's success is just fun to watch, "said Mansur-Wentworth. "She works so hard, never complains and is always willing to do whatever is asked of her. Her success and excitement is inspiring to me as a coach but also for her teammates."

With such different backgrounds, what might be the common denominator for these young lions on their hunt for excellence?

"Consistency and dedication," said Clausen. "I am always out running and trying to do my best."

Adaramola agreed. "Definitely determination. I came here determined to get my high school times back, maybe shave a couple of milliseconds off my time. It takes a lot of hard work."

Consistency. Dedication. Determination. Hard work. And a bit of UCF pride.