On Feb. 21, the Ragin’ Cajuns rolled into Birmingham, Alabama to compete in the Sun Belt Conference Indoor Championships for track and field. As expected, the team proved its mettle as one of the premier programs in the conference by matching last year’s team placements of third and fourth for men’s and women’s respectively. What was unprecedented was the fashion in which many of these points would come in, as the Cajuns turned up the pressure by setting a slew of personal and school records.
Expectations were high for Cajuns freshman sprinter Kiana Foster in the 60-meter sprint event, as she had set the program record with a gold performance at this very meet a year prior. Foster would put up an impressive 7.39 second split, good for silver with teammate Shemia Odaine in a solid fourth; but it would be another Cajun freshman, Serenity Rogers, who would take home gold this year with an 8.31 in the 60 hurdles.
On the men’s side, junior Brock Appiah would match Foster with a silver 6.79 split. Trejun Jones followed with a 6.86 for a close fourth. However, where Appiah would really shine this year was in the men’s 200, where he would bring home a gold with a dominant 21.24 split in the final. Right alongside him were teammates Caemon Scott with a 21.43 for bronze and Kashie Crockett with a 21.50 for fourth. Yves Cherubin would bring home silver in the 60 hurdles with a 7.92.
The previously mentioned Odaine earned bronze in the long jump with a 19 feet 9 inch personal best jump, and junior Chandler Mixon earned bronze in men’s heptathlon with 5,521 points, also a personal best.
The men’s distance medley run would see another program best set, as freshmen Peyton Chiasson, Brandon Rhone, Baptiste Depril-Dupre and Louden Boudreaux would set the pace for the entire final, only to be barely eked out by a gargantuan push from University of Texas at Arlington’s anchor Marquetin Barnes, whose efforts would relegate the Cajuns to a 10:07.35 split for silver.
The men’s 4×400 relay final also featured an incredible all-freshman Cajuns team. Nathan Fergusson and Antoni Hoyte-Small built an impressive straight-long lead early. The race would feature an amazing push from Brandon Rhone as Texas State challenged late, and a perfectly-executed pass to Texas anchor Brian West would see Javed Jones and crew fall just short of gold.
The true individual dominance of the championships, though, lies in freshman Sophie Daigle’s stunning performances, first in a program record 5k, then a program record 3k. Both races saw Daigle bide her time in second throughout before taking over in the final lap and finishing half a straight ahead of the field, with magnificent 16:52.88 and 9:52.82 splits respectively.
Regardless of talent or experience level, track and field proves time and again to be the ultimate individual sport, often with victory and defeat hidden between the thinnest of margins. Consequently, every athlete stepping foot into this event deserves credit due to the immense effort and dedication put forth to help represent track and field and to maintain it as the great sport that it is.