Junior Willie Alexander is set to make his third appearance, his first in the triple jump, at the NCAA Track and Field National Championships for Long Beach State alongside six of his teammates in Eugene, Oregon.
Alexander and senior Chris Low, who will run in the 800-meter race, are LBSU’s only athletes returning to nationals, which will be held June 10-13.
In his last two trips to the national championships, Alexander, the current Big West men’s track athlete of the year, competed in the long jump.
“I feel like I’m going back with a lot more experience,” Alexander said. “[From past nationals, I’ve learned] to be patient, I should be able to relax this year and execute in my event.”
Head coach Andy Sythe said that his athletes have been working since fall with the hopes of making a trip to nationals. It has been a satisfying process for Sythe to see all of the time and energy that his athletes and the other coaches have put into the program pay off.
“Those guys represent a lot of potential, but they also represent a lot of hard work to get here,” Sythe said. “Seeing it all happen as you plan it is a pretty satisfying process. Even though we’re extremely proud and happy to have gotten to this next step, our goals don’t end there.”
Senior Jahmani Lockett said that his team has gone through much adversity with not having an actual facility to compete at as the school was renovating the old field and having to travel to another school for practices.
“All the hard work that we’ve put in since the beginning and seeing it pay off, it’s amazing,” Lockett said.
Having also faced many personal difficulties during his time as a collegiate athlete, Lockett said that it is an incredible opportunity for him to travel to nationals his senior year. He will participate in the 4×400 relay with senior Cameron Glasgow, junior Dylan McCloskey and junior Michael Perez-Rogers.
“Nationals is the last stage you can go to as a collegiate athlete and to make it there my senior year, it is a good way to end our collegiate career,” Lockett said. “Especially with the conference record and school record.”
Big West track athlete of the year Glasgow is participating for the first time, but will be involved in both the relay and the 400-meter race, and junior Michael Montgomery will soar in the pole vault.
Sythe, the conference’s coach of the year for the third consecutive season, admitted that the hard part of getting to the nationals is over. He said now it is simply time to compete and perform at their best.
“What we look to do is to get everybody in the finals and to see them perform well within that final,” Sythe said. “It’s going to be easier in the national championships than it was getting there.”
Long Beach State’s seven athletes are set to compete at Historic Hayward Field for the NCAA National Championships from June 10-13. The events will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.