Freshmen gain experience at USA Junior Track and Field Championships

Every sport has its own version of the “big game.” For four freshman members of the USF Track and Field Team, it’s the USA Junior Track and Field Championships in Indianapolis, Ind.

Josh Wimbley, Carlton Mitchell, D’Andre Ruff and Mikail Ebanks returned Monday from participating in their strongest events in the competition.

Wimbley had the best showing of the four who participated, finishing fifth overall in the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.67 seconds. By finishing in the top five, Wimbley has earned a spot as an alternate for the Junior World Championship team.

Head track and field coach Warren Bye said he is proud of Wimbley’s accomplishment.”To be in a position to participate in the world championships is something very special,” Bye said. “The top three in each event get to go, but if for some reason they cannot, the fourth and fifth place finishers get to go in their place. I’ve already talked to Josh, and he is going to go if he gets the chance.”

Ruff, who ran the 100-meter dash, finished with a time of 10.78 seconds and finished 10th in his qualifier. However, he was awestruck for most of the competition.

“I was really nervous, so I probably could have done better,” Ruff said. “But I think it was a great experience, and I learned a lot.”

Mitchell, who is also a wide receiver on the USF football team, finished 13th overall with a time of 48.41 seconds in the 400-meter dash.

“Carlton eats, sleeps and breathes track,” Coach Bye said. “It was really a great opportunity for him to show his talents as an athlete.”

Ebanks finished with a time of 2:01.01 in the 800-meter run. For Ebanks, the opportunity to perform on this stage was a long time coming.

“I was invited to compete when I was 15,” Ebanks said. “I couldn’t do it though because I was injured. I was also invited to participate last year, but I wasn’t able to. It was a great experience to show what I could do on a big stage.”

The USA Junior championship is considered a prestigious event for amateur athletes, and this year the spotlight was especially bright.

“This event is for young athletes from all over the country from ages 15 to 19,” Bye said. “It was a great opportunity for those four individuals to show everybody how hard they have worked all year.”

“It was like the Super Bowl for us,” Ruff said. I got to meet some of the greatest pros in track and field. I met (200m and 400m world record-holder) Michael Johnson, and I got to see (nine-time Olympic gold-medalist) Carl Lewis. It was the biggest stage I’ve ever performed on.”

Not only did the meet allow the four freshmen to show their talents, but they said qualifying together was an added bonus.

“Traveling with my teammates made this trip a lot easier,” Ruff said. “We did a lot together, and it was cool to share this experience with them.”