Three Saluki track and field athletes will compete for a chance to take home a National Championship win for SIU.
Senior throwers J.C. Lambert and Jeneva McCall, along with senior multi-event athlete Malaikah Love, will compete in the NCAA Indoor Championships Friday through Sunday in Nampa, Idaho at the Jackson Indoor Track.
“I really want to bring this back home for my community,” said Lambert, a Harrisburg native. “Having my hometown behind me, cheering for me, really motivates me to do something for my community.”
On Feb. 29, Lambert’s hometown was hit by a tornado that ravaged homes and businesses in the area and left seven people dead. Lambert said he wants to be able to give his hometown someone to cheer for during these difficult times.
Lambert, who will compete Saturday in the weight throw, had his longest recorded toss this season at the Saluki Open. His distance of 74-4.25 ranks him fourth in the nation. Lambert will compete against throwers from powerhouse schools such as Princeton, Virginia Tech, LSU, Minnesota, Florida and Ohio State. The Harrisburg native said he looks to improve on his fourth-place finish at the 2011 Championships.
Lambert is also entering his third Indoor Nationals and, despite ranking fourth in the nation in the weight throw with a 74-4.25 mark, said he feels like somewhat of an underdog who is carrying the weight of his hometown and the country into the meet. His main competitors in the weight throw come from Slovakia and Germany, and Lambert said he’s received support from other athletes who hope he represents the USA well.
“Since I am homegrown and have a chance to beat foreign athletes that have been throwing four times as long as I have, I have different American coaches and athletes coming up to me, saying they hope I beat them and win it for the USA,” he said.
McCall heads into the Championships Friday as the favorite to win the women’s weight throw. McCall holds the longest weight throw in the country, with a toss of 77-11.5 that she recorded Jan. 13 at the Saluki Open. McCall will also compete in the shot-put event.
This will be McCall’s third trip to the Indoor Nationals, but despite being the favorite, she said she feels no extra pressure to perform well.
“No, I don’t feel any pressure from people,” McCall said. “Being the favorite or not, you just got to get in there and do what you know you can do. There’s no sense (in) worrying about the next person.”
Love is the third member of the team who will compete in her third Nationals. Love will be very busy Saturday as she competes in the pentathlon, a set of five events consisting of 60-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 800-meter dash and long jump.
Love said the pentathlon is a very grueling event, but if she can improve on her MVC record of 4,092 total points, she expects to be competitive. She said it is important not to overthink the events during the meet.
“My mindset is pretty calm at this level of competition,” Love said. “I’ve already made it to the meet; now comes the fun part. The simpler you keep competition strategies at these meets, the easier it is to compete.”