Smith’s national showing wraps indoor track season

Lucas Aulbach

Sharika Smith, the lone WKU representative at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, finished 16th in the long jump and 17th in the triple jump at nationals last weekend, ending the indoor season and solidifying her position as a nationally-ranked competitor.

Smith’s performances gained attention this year as she set several school records and helped the women’s team to a win in the Sun Belt Conference indoor championships.

“She competed at the highest level, and it paid off tremendously,” Head Coach Erik Jenkins said.

Smith left for College Station, Texas, the site of the NCAA championships, last Wednesday and returned to Bowling Green on Sunday.

Smith’s performances in Texas coincided with her national rankings. She entered the NCAA championships tied for 16th nationally in the long jump and tied for 17th in the triple jump.

Smith, however, wasn’t satisfied with the results and said she had planned to improve in the standings.

This was her third appearance at the national championships.

“I had hoped to do better coming into the week,” Smith said.

Jenkins said Smith’s disappointment could be chalked up to her competitive nature, calling her an “outstanding competitor.”

“Sharika has never lost a championship in her time here, and I think that’s something she takes pride in,” Jenkins said.

The NCAA championships marked the end of the indoor track season, with WKU’s first outdoor competition taking place on March 26th.

The women’s team took first place at the Sun Belt indoor championship, while the men’s team came away with a second-place finish.

Jenkins said the teams are young — with the Smith being one of the older members — and that the season was productive for both squads.

“We came in this year with high expectations, and we put our best foot forward,” he said.

Jenkins also said the level of competition in the conference is higher than it has been in the past.

“The Sun Belt is an outstanding conference, and it’s really getting better every year,” he said.

With the indoor season over, the players and staff can now shift their focus to the upcoming outdoor season.  Jenkins said that Tuesday, the teams would participate in their first practice since students returned from spring break.

The teams will see strong competition during the outdoor season, as their schedule pits them in meets against teams such as Tennessee and Louisville.

Assistant Coach Craig Morehead said the teams have the same goal as they did in the indoor season.

“The goal is simple,” he said. “Try to get up and win another championship.”

Smith said she also has goals for herself this season, such as making the outdoor national championships again and finishing in the top eight nationally in the long jump and triple jump.

She said the teams should be prepared for the upcoming season.

“With all the practice we’ve had, most of the work’s been done,” Smith said.