For the first time in nearly a decade, the Elon University women’s track and field team experienced what it was like to compete where it practiced.

The recently renovated Jerry and Jeanne Robertson Track and Field Complex hosted the Phoenix Invitational Saturday, April 18, in which the Phoenix won nine titles.

Elon hosted a mix of collegiate teams, non-collegiate track programs and unaffiliated athletes, with men’s and women’s competitions happening in all events. Despite a threat of rain, the sun shined the duration of the meet.

Head coach Mark Elliston was running around all day, helping at each event while also talking to his team. When he finally got to sit down and take a breath, he was smiling ear-to-ear.

“We love having a venue where you come and work out, but also host competitions,” Elliston said. “I’m very thankful that the administration helped get the [Irwin Belk Track] surface redone so we can now host a home meet.”

Elon’s star of the day was junior sprinter Simone Jackson, who tied her school record in the 100-meter dash preliminaries, finishing in 12.07 seconds. She placed fourth in the finals at 12.27.

“It helped me, and I think it helped everyone else,” Jackson said of the home track. “When we practice on the same field we compete on, we feel more comfortable and relaxed. You know what the track is like and what the jumping pits are like. I think it definitely has a home-track advantage.”

Jackson went on to win the 200-meter dash in 25.10, and Elon placed three of the top four finishers in the race. Junior Sydney Griffin took third at 25.27, and junior Jennifer Pash took fourth at 25.94.

In other sprinting events, Griffin took second in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 13.82 in the finals. Junior Samantha Brown was the top collegiate runner in the 400-meter hurdles, finishing second overall at 63.15. Pash was Elon’s top runner in the 400-meter dash, finishing fifth in 57.71. In the 4x100 meter dash, Jackson, Griffin, Pash and junior Bria Turner finished second with a time of 46.98.

Jackson, Pash and freshmen Emily Dixon and Lydia Laws raced to a win in the 4x400 meter relay, finishing at 3:57 in a back-and-forth race against North Carolina Central University. Afterward, Jackson was beaming about the relay team’s performance.

“I love the relay events,” Jackson said. “I love being a part of a team and passing the baton around and cheering each other on. It excites me to be a team, especially because track is usually about individual events.”

In the distance races, Elon runners won the 5000-meter and 1500-meter races. Senior Haylee Dawe was the only Elon runner in the 5000-meter race, finishing first with a time of 17:56. Sophomore Shelby Cuddeback won the 1500 meter race with a time of 4:39. Sophomore Elyse Bierut finished second 4:40, and senior Jenny Gallagher finished third 4:42. Gallagher was the top Elon finisher in the 800-meter race, finishing fourth at 2:20.

The field events were a success for the Phoenix, as four athletes combined to win five of the seven field events that had multiple competitors. There was only one athlete competing in the women’s pole vault.

In a close high jump competition, junior Megan Kirschling cleared the bar at 5 feet, 7 1/4 inches on her first attempt, which was enough to defeat North Carolina Central’s sophomore Sherhae Holloway. Dixon cleared the bar at 5 feet, 3 1/4 inches to finish in third in high jump.

Sophomore Jayna Coyle won the triple jump competition, finishing with a distance of 11.37 meters. Sophomore Carrie Abraham finished in third, jumping 11.25 meters. Abraham also took second in the long jump competition, jumping 5.57 meters. Dixon finished third at 5.50 meters.

But Dixon reigned victorious in the javelin throw, with a toss of 34.08 meters. Elon took the top four places in the javelin throw, with senior Jennifer Jarvis finishing in second (31.90 meters), freshman Lauren Livezey finishing in third (29.77 meters) and Laws finishing in fourth (27.24 meters).

In other throwing events, sophomore Bre’anna Warren continued her recent streak of success, winning both the women’s shot puts with a throw of 13.43 meters and the discus with a winning throw of 45.81 meters. Freshman Bryanna Hames also had strong throws in the shot put (12.56 meters, third place) and discus (45.53 meters, second place). In the hammer throw, sophomore Briana O’Grady set a personal-best with a throw of 45.57 meters, finishing in fourth.

The next event for the Phoenix track and field team will be at the CAA Championships, which take place at College William & Mary May 1-2.


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