Alan Connie has officially passed the baton and Jeff Jacobs is already off and running.
Despite trailing by 22 1/2 points heading into the final day of the Big South Indoor Track and Field Championships, the Coastal Carolina women surged past Liberty for a 56 1/2-point win and their third straight title on Friday in Winston-Salem, N.C.
It was the first as the CCU women’s coach for Jacobs, who took over when Connie announced his retirement last May. Connie led the CCU women to a combined 28 Big South titles in cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field in 28 years.
“He was happy to see the winning continue,” Jacobs said of Connie, who was there to see the team win. “It was great to have him there as well.”
Coastal finished the day with 196 1/2 points, compared to 140 for Liberty.
Opening the day trailing the Flames, the Chants made a move quickly with Aynslee van Graan winning the mile (4:52.58) before Jessica Gelibert (8.47) led a 1-2-3 finish in the 60-meter hurdles.
“From there we took the momentum and just kept riding it throughout the meet,” Jacobs said.
Gelibert also won the 400 meters (55.52) and anchored the first-place 1,600-meter relay team – which also featured Camille Hurley, Christal Green and Takeyra Jenkins-Dodd – en route to being named Most Outstanding Track Athlete.
“I definitely exceeded my expectations,” Gelibert said. “I just feel like a lot of my success came from having the love and support from the team. I’m just so glad our team was able to go out there and do what we knew we could do.”
Amirah Al-Bayyinah repeated as the triple jump champion (40 feet, 6 1/4 inches) and also won the long jump (18-7 3/4) en route to being named Most Outstanding Field Athlete.
“We don’t believe in pen-and-paper points and rankings,” Al-Bayyinah said. “We know what we’re capable of. We just came in and said that we’ll get the job done and we did.”
Letitia Saayman had perhaps the most impressive feat, setting a meet and program record in winning the 5,000 meters (16:52.74) by nearly 33 seconds.
“Winning the race by 33 seconds was an outstanding individual performance,” Jacobs said.
Teka Simpson had the Chants’ other individual title in the high jump (5-6).
“When they saw somebody did well, they knew it was their turn and they stepped up,” Jacobs said. “… I couldn’t be prouder of how we did today.”
The 1-2-3 finish in the 60-meter hurdles – with Hurley second (8.63) and Christina Davis third (8.70) – allowed the Chants to overtake Liberty and they didn’t look back.
“We knew we were up against it and Liberty is always a good challenge,” Jacobs said. “They stepped up and did what they needed to do today and it was great.”
Coastal earned 12 points in the 60 meters, with Teka Simpson third (7.73), Symphony Thompson fifth (7.81) and Kelila Naules seventh (7.84).
Other top-10 finishes by the Chants: Kyla van Graan (mile, fourth, 5:01.78); Hurley (400m, third, 55.89); Green (400m, fifth, 56.53); Raven Hamilton (high jump, fifth, 5-3); Chloe White (high jump, tied sixth, 5-3); Simpson (200m, second, 24.78); Green (200m, third, 24.91); Courtney Lawson (triple jump, second, 39-5); Aynslee van Graan (800m, third, 2:16.30); and Imani Boatwright (800m, fourth, 2:16.66).
“It’s very exciting after Coach Connie’s retirement to be able to take over the women’s program. There’s a very talented group and great coaching staff still in place here,” Jacobs said.
•Chants on All-Big South team
: Jessica Gelibert, Amirah Al-Bayyinah, Letitia Saayman, Aynslee van Graan, Teka Simpson, Camille Hurley, Christal Green, Courtney Lawson, Christina Davis, Kelila Naules, Regina Peattie, Takeyra Jenkins-Dodd, LaChelsie Thomas.