As the Coastal Carolina track and field teams begin competition Thursday against some of the top athletes in the country at the NCAA East Preliminary Round in Jacksonville, Fla., it’s a culmination of a season of hard work and determination.
Or, in the case of Chanticleer senior Stevie Brunson, even more.
After breaking his ankle last year and missing out on what was supposed to be his final collegiate season, Brunson has exceeded expectations in his return and will see the payoff for his perseverance as he competes with the Chants’ 4x400-meter relay team.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Brunson said this week. “That’s the main reason why I came back. I felt before I got injured, that was one of my dreams and my goals that I never got to accomplish.”
Coastal Carolina men’s track and field coach Jeff Jacobs said Brunson wasn’t even assured a spot on the relay this year given the depth in the program, but in the end it was the strong-willed senior who ran the anchor leg for the 4x400 relay two weekends ago at Georgia Tech in its final opportunity to qualify for the NCAA postseason.
“He never really wavered in his determination to want to come back and have one more season,” Jacobs said. “At the same time … there was never a guarantee that, ‘Hey, you’re going to be back on this relay.’ Especially with missing a whole year of competing, a whole year of training, how strong would he be coming back? …
“A couple of other guys had some hamstring issues, he stepped in and just every time we put him in he just came through.”
As the anchor leg in that final qualifying opportunity, Brunson had to run a 47-second split or better to get Coastal Carolina the time it needed, and sure enough he came in just under that to deliver the Chants a school-record time of 3:08.55 and their place in the postseason field.
Brunson will team with junior DeAndra Lipscomb, sophomore Corey Hackett-Greene and junior Alexander Hass to see what they can do this week.
The top three relay finishers from each of three heats plus the next three times will advance to the NCAA national meet in Eugene, Oregon.
The women’s 4x400 relay of sophomore Jessica Gelibert, junior Camille Hurley, junior Christal Green and sophomore Teka Simpson will also compete at the meet, which runs through Saturday.
Both relays will compete Saturday.
“Last year we had the joy of both our 4x100 and 4x400 [relays] advancing, so three of these four were on that team that went to Eugene last year and they’ve tasted the excitement of making the national finals,” Chants women’s coach Alan Connie said. “And they have a legitimate shot at advancing.”
Individually, Gelibert and Davis will compete Thursday in the women’s 400 hurdles. Gelibert is seeded seventh and just missed advancing to the NCAA championships last year while finishing 15th in the preliminary round.
For the men, Lipscomb will compete in the 400 meters and junior Reggie Nelson goes Saturday in the men’s high jump as the No. 14 seed with a legitimate chance to advance – needing a top-12 finish to do so.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318 or on Twitter @RyanYoungTSN.