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Matthews aiming for higher marks

Special Photo
Clayton State freshman Jessica Matthews has only been doing the triple jump for a year, but she has already set the school record in the event.

Special Photo Clayton State freshman Jessica Matthews has only been doing the triple jump for a year, but she has already set the school record in the event.

MORROW — Jessica Matthews had the ambition of being a college track and field athlete.

Matthews gave some insights on preparing for a meet.

Pre-event routine: “Pray. I always pray before my event. I try to get my mind right and ready for my event. I always visualize how I want the jumps to go.”

Pre-meet meal: “Most times I’m too nervous to eat. I have some water and granola bars at the meet and some fruit. The night before a meet, I eat a lot of pasta.”

Superstitions: “I don’t believe in them.”

Most important part of jump: “I just try to visualize the hop, skip and the jump. I try to hold all three phases of the jump.”

The only problem, she didn’t have high enough credentials in her running events to warrant a scholarship.

That was until her high school coach at Monroe Area convinced her to give the triple jump event a try. Its been almost a few year since the Clayton State freshman has learned the hop, skip and jump event of track and field to earn a free ride at the school.

She has seemed to have mastered the event in a short period of time, especially on the collegiate level.

Twice this season, Matthews has been named the Peach Belt Conference Track and Field Athlete of the Week. The latest honor came last week after setting a school record in the triple jump.

She had an NCAA Div. II national meet provisional mark of 40-feet, 7 3/4 inches (12.39m) at the Coach O Invitational in Troy, Ala.

It was better than the mark of 38-10 1/2 she set at the Furman Blue Shoes Invitational in South Carolina a few weeks ago.

“I’m very happy at the way I’ve been jumping,” Matthews said. “I’m looking to keep improving with each meet.”

Saturday is a very important meet for the freshman. She will get her last shot at a NCAA Div. II automatic mark when the Lakers compete at the Georgia Tech Invitational.

Although her record-setting mark ranks among the top 10 in the country, she still wants to hit the automatic mark to ensure a spot in the nationals.

“I’m ready for the challenge on Saturday,” Matthews said. “I’m just trying to get my body and mind ready.”

As a senior last spring at Monroe Area High, she placed fourth in the Class AAA triple jump and helped anchor the team’s 400 relay team to a fourth place finish.

During the indoor season, Matthews qualified for the national indoor championships in the triple jump.

“I’ve learned the event pretty quickly,” said the nursing major.

Although she said she was an honors student in high school, Matthews wanted to be a college athlete.

“My mindset was that I was going to college, and I wanted to be an athlete,” she said. “I decided to put in the work to earn a scholarship.”

Now, she is working on earning an automatic qualifying mark.