JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (May 19, 2011) - Capped off by a dramatic late addition, a fantastic four ETSU athletes will go to Bloomington, Ind., in less than ten days for the preliminary first round of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field East Regional.
Four Buccaneer sprinters finished the season among the region's top 48 runners in their respective events. This week both Emani Harrison (Columbia, S.C.) and Mike James (Palm Bay, Fla.) also took home Atlantic Sun Athlete of the Week honors, the conference office announced yesterday.
Until a few days ago, three looked to be shoo-ins for the postseason: James, fellow senior Jasmine Ingram (Frederick, Md.), and freshman Ifrish Alberg (Paramaribo, Suriname). Last but certainly not least on the list, freshman prodigy Harrison ran a school-record 11.63 in the 100-meter dash prelim last weekend at the Clemson Final Qualifier to notch the No. 45 time in the region.
Such an exciting culmination to a memorable freshman year makes Harrison stand out even further to her coaches, who tabbed her as a special athlete from the outset.
"We work very hard to find talented athletes that can compete right out of [high school]," said ETSU Sprints Coach Brandon Morton, "but also we try to find talented athletes nobody else really sees. Emani is a prime example of a talented kid that was overlooked."
Talented, indeed. The interdisciplinary studies major and former A. C. Flora Falcon already owns a school record as a freshman, and Morton said she reminds him of some of the all-time greats in Buccaneer women's sprints. Her performances echo those of past runners Jenny Knox, Nae Nae Bailey and Judy Johnson, said Morton, as well as recently graduated senior Ingram, who accompanies Harrison to Bloomington next week.
"I can truly say she will look to take the sprints program to even higher heights," said Morton. "We would like to see her at the NCAA Championships as early as next year.
"For her," added Morton, "that is not far-fetched."
In the meantime, Morton said, it all starts with qualifying for the regional finals on Saturday, May 28, and that Harrison needs another great performance to do that. "I think she will look to break the school record in the process," he said.
Among Harrison's running mates at Indiana University's Robert C. Haugh Complex, Alberg and James both logged their qualifying times at the A-Sun Championships in Jacksonville, Fla., April 16, while Ingram punched her ticket a week later in the Charlotte Invitational.
Alberg's 10.42 finish in the 100 won gold in the conference final and still stands as the No. 1 mark this season, hanging on at No. 41 in the region. James's runner-up 13.92 in the 110 hurdles final is still No. 2 in conference behind Kennesaw State's Kendall Parks, but it is the top regional mark for ETSU at No. 16. Ingram finished the season among the top five A-Sun runners in both the 200 and 400, but it was her school-record 54.15 in the 400 at Charlotte that remains No. 38 in the region.Check out Indiana University's Web site, iuhoosiers.cstv.com, for more on the regional preliminary. For more on the road from Johnson City to Bloomington, visit ETSUBucs.com.