On a stormy weekend that caused several thunder and rain delays, only two of the 11 USF track and field competitors ended up advancing to the NCAA Championships.
Sophomore Matthew O’Neal advanced by placing third in the triple jump event Friday evening with a distance of 52-10.
“Mentally, I just focus on the task at hand and I don’t really make it bigger than it really is,” O’Neal said. “I just think of it as another triple jump, which I’ve been doing all year long.”
The sophomore has already made his mark as a Bull in only two seasons. He holds the school record for the Outdoor Triple Jump and he is the 2014 AAC Champion in the event.
O’Neal’s success is something that even older teammates said they appreciate.
Senior Shane Lewis said even though he’s leaving the team, he’s still going to stick around and help train the athletes, particularly O’Neal, who he said shows the most potential.
Lewis was unable to advance in the triple jump Friday, ending his career as a Bull. This year, he became the first ever men’s indoor All-American in USF history. He is also second in the USF record books in the Triple Jump, trailing only O’Neal.
While this weekend was a stepping stone to the next round for O’Neal and senior Courtney Anderson, who advanced in the high jump, it was a learning experience for some, such as freshman hurdler Christopher Grinley.
In his first season with the Bulls, Grinley holds the third best indoor hurdles record at USF and qualified for third team all-conference honors. Friday evening, he finished fifth in his event, which was just two places shy of qualifying for the NCAA Championships.
“I knew I had to PR to qualify for the next round and I didn’t,” Grinley said.
But rather than being deterred by his finish, the freshman said this will motivate him to prepare better and work harder for next season.
“On the preparation side, I would have done a lot different,” Grinley said. “I think my preparation could have been a lot better.”
Grinley has big plans for his future with the Bulls, which includes setting school records and winning a national championship.
“At the end of college, I definitely want to win a national title,” Grinley said. “School records are in the future for me. I just want to be the best and that’s a pretty ambitious goal, I think.”
But Grinley isn’t the only person on the team with high hopes for the future. Even though Lewis’s time with the Bulls is done, he’s shooting for the Olympics.
“I’m going to keep training and I’m looking towards 2016 and Rio,” Lewis said. “The mark to qualify is 65 feet. I haven’t reached that yet, but I’m on the peak and it’s something that is attainable for me.”
The NCAA Track and Field Championships begin June 11 and last until June 14 in Eugene, Oregon.