Megan Meadow, Photo Editor
Samford standouts Karisa Nelson and Tray Oates both competed at the 2017 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, held March 10-11 at the Gilliam Indoor Track Facility in College Station, Texas.
On Day One, the two junior Bulldogs posted impressive performances.
Oates finished eighth in the men’s pole vault with a clearance of 5.45 meters. With that finish, Oates earned All-American status.
“Friday just wasn’t my day. This year was a record year as far as vault and normally 5.45 would’ve been second or third, but I just wasn’t on my game,” Oates said. “I never fully peaked during indoors like I did last summer, so I’m not super bummed, I just wish I did better.”
Nelson also had an exceptional performance in the women’s mile. In the women’s mile prelims on Day One, Nelson won her heat with a time of 4 minutes, 35.31 seconds and advanced to the next day’s final.
On Day Two, Nelson seemed to peak at just the right moment. She ran a smart and strategic race, notching a personal-best time of 4:31.24 to clinch the national title. She had entered the meet ranked outside the top 10.
“I kept imagining the final moments, that I would swing around the curve with the leader and pass her on the home stretch,” Nelson said. “Then finally, during the last 100 meters of the race I saw my dream becoming reality.
“I saw the finish line. I saw the leader right next to me. I thought, ‘This is what I’ve always wanted. I’m in perfect position to take it, I’ll do everything I can to cross that line first,’ and I did.”
Nelson’s victory earned Samford’s first-ever NCAA Division I title. Her performance also clinched Samford the No. 21 spot in the team rankings.
“The day of the final I wasn’t as nervous. It was the final race of the season and I knew no matter what I would give it everything I had,” Nelson said. “There’s a sense of finality in it that’s really motivating.”
Samford head track and field coach Rod Tiffin lauded his Bulldogs’ success.
“I couldn’t be more happy with both of those Samford student-athletes than I am,” Tiffin said. “Once again, we are showing the country that we can compete with anyone.”