HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — The USF track and field team wants to extend its season with a strong performance at the NCAA regional meet in Jacksonville. Qualifiers from this meet will head to the NCAA Championships in Austin, TX.
One group of Bulls who has their collective eye on a spot at nationals is the women's 4x400 meter relay team. Doneisha Anderson, Shaniya Benjamin, Je’Niya Burton, and Zaharia Allers-Liburd broke the program record and the conference record at the American Conference Championship with a run of 3:32.24.
"I feel like everybody really locked in a lot. More than what I expected," Allers-Liburd said before practice. "I think I helped them out a lot, also. Everyone ran really fast; I think the fastest splits they’ve ran all season. I think we just really wanted to come here and win, and that’s exactly what we did."
"When each leg goes out there… not run for themselves, but run for each other," Burton added. "We all count on each other, and we go out and do our job."
The Bulls cut four seconds off their fastest time, which is a massive number in track and field. But shaving seconds off the clock takes much more than running fast.
"You have to hydrate. You have to eat well. You have to execute at practice, listen to your coaches," Anderson explained. "So we executed [at the AAC Championships], we listened to our coaches, and we dropped those four seconds."
Long jumper Nia Robinson also broke a school and conference record at the AAC meet. She hit a mark of 6.69 meters (21 feet, 11.5 inches) on her first jump and won gold without taking another one.
"You’ve just got to remain humble and believe in yourself and know you can do it. So I don’t think there’s any pressure on me," she said as she described her expectations. "I’m not thinking about nationals until I’m there. As I've said, I have to qualify for the first round to think about nationals."
USF knows they can't afford to take any shortcuts if they want to find success at the regionals.
"It’s hard not to look past what’s in front of us because we’re always striving to be great. Going to that next level, trying to make nationals," Benjamin added. "It’s hard to not think three steps ahead when there’s that one step in front of you."
Head coach Erik Jenkins is confident his team will do all the little things right to help secure their national spot.
"It’s step by step, brick by brick. Everything is methodical," he said at practice. "You don’t jump ahead of yourself. Because if you do, then failure will find you very quickly. So, we want to be successful at every step we take."
The regionals run Wednesday through Saturday. The NCAA Championships are June 7-10.