Knights Peaked at Right Time to Claim C-USA Title

May 19, 2010

By Andrew Gavin

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The formula to win a conference championship in any sport includes peaking at the right time and an entire team effort. In track and field, it is not necessarily the type of teamwork needed in basketball and football, which require execution of plays, screens and passes. In track and field, every member of a team needs to do their part as an individual, perform at their best, and, to win a team championship, maximize every opportunity to score points. It is the sum of these parts - the throwers, jumpers, runners and hurdlers - that lead to championship titles.

For head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert and the UCF track and field team, the way those parts came together at the UCF Track and Field Complex was a beautiful thing to watch unfold as the Knights won the program's first Conference USA title with a furious comeback.

Those athletes with great expectations were even better than advertised. Sophomore Jackie Coward (Knoxville, Tenn.) dominated the 100-meter hurdles as expected and scored over 20 points alone, second to only Olympic bronze medalist Blessing Okagbare of UTEP as the event's top scorer. Senior LaKendra Thames (Winter Garden, Fla.) was seeded second in both the shot put and discus, and delivered just that with school-record performances in both events.

While Coward and Thames deserve the stardom and praise for their efforts, it was the effort of the remainder of the Knights' roster that was the difference between UCF holding the championship trophy or finishing as the runner-up for the second-straight season.

During the four-day event, UCF had 32 separate season-best performances and 22 personal-best efforts. In a championship with 21 events, those numbers are staggering and certainly indicate that the UCF coaching staff had its team peaking at the right time.

In a championship as close as it was on Sunday, with UCF defeating UTEP by a mere five points, the additional point here and point there are the difference between winning and losing. For the Knights, the additional points were coming from everywhere.

The Knights scored more points than they were expected to based on seed in 10 of the 21 events, with the team seeing a net loss in only two events. All told, UCF had an increase of 28.5 points over their expected seed-based point total. Take those points away, and instead of holding the trophy, the Knights would have finished the competition in a distant third-place.

The most impressive of those performances came from sophomore Aisha-Maree Frazier (Marietta, Ga.), who as the eighth-seed came from lane one to shock Coward and win the 400-meter hurdles. Frazier's performance gave UCF seven more points than expected based on seeding, alone the difference between winning and losing the team title.

Then there was freshman Sonnisha Williams (Jacksonville, Fla.), who scored 7.5 more points than she was expected to by finishing in second and tied for fifth in the long jump and high jump respectively. Her long jump mark of 20-6.25/6.25m would have shattered the school record had it not been wind-aided.

Add junior newcomer Tomika Story (Orange Park, Fla.) to the list. Story was seeded eighth in the triple jump, but used a personal-best mark of 40-9.0/12.42m to finish fourth in the event and score five crucial points.

And Jacquelyn Gilchrist (Tallahassee, Fla.), who was not expected to score a single point in the long jump, but her personal-best jump of 19-9.75/6.04m notched a sixth-place finish and three points.

Add it all up and UCF had won its first C-USA Track and Field Championship by late Sunday night, a testament to the talented and deep team that head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert has put together in just three years on the job.