PEMBROKE — For Peter Ormsby, hosting the Peach Belt Conference Track and Field Championships this weekend is a “double-edged sword.”
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s director of track and field said it’s good to have his athletes compete at their home facility, but having a say in what they do after the meet becomes complicated under those circumstances.
“I like to be on the road when we go to championship events just because there’s a little more control over what the kids can and can’t do,” Ormsby said. “Obviously at home they’re in their own beds, which is great, but it gives them a little more flexibility in how they come and go to the meet.”
Ormsby said a strict schedule will be put in place to manage the student-athletes’ behavior outside of the meet, and he is confident that will translate into impressive performances by the Braves.
He also knows the men’s team needs to have a strong weekend if it wants to successfully defend its conference championship from last year, and the women’s team needs to step up as well in order to improve on last season’s second-place finish.
“I’m a little apprehensive in some instances. We won last year, but obviously this year is not a guarantee,” Ormsby said. “I think a lot of groups and individuals are going to be ready to go this weekend. We just have to be ahead of everybody when the time comes.”
On the men’s side, the Braves boast a strong group of hurdlers that includes C.C. Ceccato, Javon Graham and Michael Powell.
Graham, a Jack Britt graduate, ranks ninth in the nation with a time of 14.39 in the 110-meter hurdles, a mark he set at the Braves Track Classic in March.
Jumps are also an area of strength for the Braves. Ja’vonta Smith’s personal record of 7.22 meters in the long jump is the seventh-highest mark in the nation, and Kory Jones’ 2.06 meters high jump mark ranks ninth in the nation.
Smith also has the fifth-fastest 200-meter time in the nation at 21.16 seconds. His personal best of 10.57 seconds in the 100-meter dash ranks third in the conference.
“On the distance side we have Silus Kipkoech, who was PBC Freshman of the Year last year, as well as Logan Ward and Jonathan and Matthew Martin. Those are four individuals that can make a big difference” Ormsby said.
On the women’s team, a talented senior class will look to end their time as PBC competitors on a high note.
Jeanna Cube, a standout for the Lady Braves in the heptathlon and pentathlon, will take her wide range of skills into the weekend along with seven other seniors.
Morgan Sheehan, who finished third in the conference in the javelin last year, and Kelsi Sheldon, who finished fourth in the hammer throw, also have the potential to rack up points for the Lady Braves.
Sheehan has the second-longest javelin throw for the Lady Braves this season with a mark of 35.12 meters, just behind Cube’s 37.57-meter throw at the Embry-Riddle Spikes Classic earlier this season.
Sophomores Lashonda Tate and Kaelyn Francis both have opportunities to pace the Lady Braves in the sprint races this week. Tate has the team’s fastest 100-meter mark this season at 12.10 seconds, and Francis is second on the team with a personal best time of 12.36.
Francis is also a standout in the 200-meter race, where she owns a team-best time of 25.92 seconds.
“Both groups, the guys and the girls, are working very hard. A couple teams in the PBC have really stepped up, so it’s not going to be easy for either side,” Ormsby said. “I think there’s always a chance to get what we want out of this.”
A total of 13 men’s teams and 15 women’s teams compete in the PBC.
The meet is taking place at the Dick and Lenore Taylor Track on UNCP’s campus and will run all day today, tomorrow and Saturday.
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.