By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA – Countless hours of training and competing have paid off for a select group of Bulls that now get to chase after national titles.
A total of 18 USF student-athletes look to take the next step towards the ultimate goal at the 2013 NCAA East Preliminary Rounds that take place Thursday through Saturday at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, N.C.
USF’s qualifiers had to rank in the top 48 nationally in their respective events to get to this point and the Bulls will have to finish in the top 12 of each event to advance to the NCAA Outdoor Championships June 5-8 in Eugene, Ore.
This is the most student-athletes the Bulls have sent to NCAA Preliminaries and marks the second straight year USF has had at least 19 entries in the meet.
“We’ve got some good opportunities. We had some kids do some really good things at the Big East Outdoor Championships and we look to see them improve and move ahead,” head coach Warren Bye said. “It’s just a testament to what the athletes have done.”
One Bull that’s done quite a bit in his freshman season is Matthew O’Neal, who won the triple jump title at the Big East indoor and outdoor meets, and also played for the USF men’s soccer team. O’Neal qualified for NCAA Preliminaries by setting a school record in the triple jump with a mark of 52-10 that ranks second nationally this season.
“It was basically a perfect day for jumping,” said O’Neal, who broke the record at the LSU Alumni Gold meet in April.
O’Neal was first recruited by men’s soccer coach George Kiefer out of Callaway High School in Jackson, Miss., and O’Neal wasn’t shy about his desire to take on two sports at the collegiate level.
“I wanted to see how far I could really go in both sports. He was glad to hear that I was doing two sports,” O’Neal said.
Handling numerous sports and school was something O’Neal had already been well accustomed to before signing with USF. O’Neal also played trombone in his high school band and said succeeding at the next level has been all about keeping his priorities in line.
“It’s really just time management and making sure I don’t waste any time. After practice I have class, and after class I make sure I get my work done,” he said.
O’Neal doesn’t have to worry about homework now that the semester is done and he’s excited about focusing solely on making the NCAA championship rounds.
“I’m looking forward to competing and seeing how well I can do,” O’Neal said.
Here is a look at the Bulls who have qualified for the preliminaries:
Event – name, qualifying mark (east rank)
100m – Aireonna Bailey, 11.48 (16); Dariel Jackson, 11.55 (29)
200m – Aireonna Bailey, 23.40 (17)
400m – Rachael James, 53.57 (25)
1,500m – Yasmin Smith, 4:23.72 (42)
High Jump - Courtney Anderson, 1.83m (9)
Long Jump – Monique Williams, 6.18m (19); Natasha Stewart, 6.08m (41)
Triple Jump – Monique Williams, 13.02m (9); Marqueshia Stallworth, 12.85m (16)
Shot Put – Atasha Warren, 15.08m (38)
Javelin – Casey Wagner, 45.59m (35)
400m Hurdles – Paul Barrett, 51.94 (20)
High Jump – Chase Meyers, 2.15m (21)
Pole Vault – Drew Volz, 5.21m (19); Wyatt Metzger, 5.03m (38)
Long Jump – Neaman Wise, 7.78m (7); Kevin Bell, 7.63m (12)
Triple Jump – Matthew O’Neal, 16.10m (2); Shane Lewis, 15.42m (21)