Track triumphs touted as just a start for two at Chicago State
It's a good thing the Chicago State University track and field team doesn't have to carry its awards in competition.
Lately, the team has been weighed down with its share of prizes, including seeing two of its runners grabbing Western Athletic Conference (WAC) athlete of the week awards in track and field in the same week -- a first in school history.
Junior hurdler Asia Johnson and freshman sprinter Ricordo McKenzie earned the honors in March for their performances at the UNCW Seahawk Invitational in Wilmington, North Carolina.
"It's really big for Chicago State," head coach Craig Collins told the Chicago City Wire. "To not only have an individual recognized for athlete of the week in the WAC, but to have two in one week speaks volumes to our track and field program and also for our entire student-athletic department."
Johnson ran a 14.97 in the 100-meter hurdles, putting her second overall and earning her the best time of any WAC runner. She also helped lead the Cougars to the top 4x100 time in the WAC, at 47.93.
McKenzie finished the 400-meter dash at 49.94 -- also good enough for second place at the meet. It was the best time for any WAC runner and also a personal best. He also ran part of the 4x100 team.
It's a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that McKenzie's best race is usually the 800 meters, but Collins said he isn't surprised at the success of either runner.
"In both cases, they are talents, and that's why I thought they'd be a good fit for our program at Chicago State," he said. "They have been perfect fits in many ways. They work hard; they're dedicated; they're excellent students. And so they set the motto for the kind of kids we want to recruit at Chicago State. They are always at practice, always in the weight room trying to get themselves better."
Collins said both runners have realized that the extra time and hard work they have been putting in is paying off.
"The first time for both winning this award, and it's really nice for Ricordo to get that validation in his first year," he said. "But it's also great to see Asia, who's worked hard. So this, for her, it's great, because she responds very well to positive reinforcement. So that just reinforced that what she has been doing is working. So she's been working even harder since."
This is just the start of many good things to come for both athletes, Collins predicted.
"I think both athletes have a good chance to be in the top three at the very least in conference," he said. "If they continue to remain healthy and to continue on their workout, I think they can be recognized as all-conference this year."