Shanieka Thomas Eyeing Triple Jump Title at NCAA's
March 5, 2013
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -
Courtesy of Dan Johnson of the Mountain West. Click on the link above for the entire article, including the first part on Wyoming's Mason Finley.
San Diego State's Shanieka Thomas nearly qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics, finishing third in the Triple Jump at the Jamaican Olympic Trials, and will be looking to make the team in 2016.
This season, though, the St. Andrew, Jamaica, native has been all about dominating the collegiate competition. On Feb. 8 in Albuquerque, N.M., Thomas unleashed a jump that caught everyone - judges included - off-guard.
"When I jumped, I didn't realize how far it was," she said. "The meet officials didn't put up the right mark at first, but when I found out what the real number was I couldn't believe I had jumped that."
That would be 46'-2.50'' (14.08 meters). Not only did the jump shatter the San Diego State and MW all-time record, but it was the sixth-best Triple Jump in NCAA history. Her mark would've won 14 of the last 15 NCAA Women's Indoor Track and Field Championships, including the last four.
"It was just an amazing feeling, because that's really a huge jump for indoor," Thomas said. "I wasn't expecting to jump that far that weekend. It was a big accomplishment."
Thomas, a junior, enters the 2013 NCAA Women's Indoor Track and Field Championships with the nation's best jump, and she's eager to improve upon her ninth- and seventh-place finishes as a freshman and sophomore, respectively.
"I want to win," said Thomas, who won the Triple Jump for the second straight year at the 2013 MW Indoor Track & Field Championships, and was named the Women's Most Outstanding Performer. "Given the past two years I wasn't in the top-three, I am hungry to be there."
San Diego State head coach Shelia Burrell says that Thomas won't be intimidated by her fellow competitors at nationals.
"Hitting the 14-meter mark has been a goal for her and coach (Carjay) Lyles, but her ability is bigger than that," Burrell said. "With competition, it's about what happens on that day. We are feeling optimistic about what her potential is. If she's doing this in indoor, her outdoor season could be really good."
Burrell, says that while Thomas is an elite triple-jumper, she's more than just a one-event specialist.
"She's a phenomenal talent," said Burrell, who guided the Aztecs to the 2013 MW Women's Indoor Track & Field Championship for the first time and was named the USTFCCCA West Region Women's Coach of the Year. "She doesn't just jump; she runs and trains very hard. She took second in the 400 (Meters) and ran the 4x400 (Relay). The 400 is a new event for her; she ran it twice last year and only a few times this year. It's a testament to what type of athlete she is.
"We talk about training and competing with a standard of excellence. We want to be able to win and everyone wants to win, but I think you have different victories along the way and we are winning right now in terms of developing athletes."
If anyone has an eye for elite talent, it's Burrell. A two-time U.S. Olympian in the Heptathlon (2000 and 2004, where she finished fourth), Burrell says that Thomas has been a big part in helping build the Aztecs Track and Field program.
"Shanieka was in that first class when I took the job here," Burrell said. "I sent coach (Carjay) Lyles down to Jamaica to see her. Our recruiting classes have improved each year and we've got a special kid in each class, and that definitely helps. We've done a good job of identifying and attracting talent across the board."
Burrell has little doubt that if Thomas stays the course with her training that she'll be an Olympic athlete in 2016.
"Oh definitely, without a doubt," Burrell said. "She'll be one of (Jamaica's) top triple jumpers, hands-down. She just has to stay the course, stick with the plan and keep on believing. You have to believe in yourself. Coach Lyles and Shanieka believe that she is capable of doing it; it's that intangible thing that you can't coach."