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Clayton State athletes shine at Peach Belt Conference meet

Clayton State sophomore Jessica Matthews won the women’s triple jump with a leap of 38-feet, 11 inches, an NCAA Div. II provisional mark, at least week’s Peach Belt Conference Championships. (Special Photo)

Clayton State sophomore Jessica Matthews won the women’s triple jump with a leap of 38-feet, 11 inches, an NCAA Div. II provisional mark, at least week’s Peach Belt Conference Championships. (Special Photo)

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Job Kemboi, a sophomore at Clayton State, won the 10,000 meters and 5,000 at the recent Peach Belt Conference Championships last week. (Special Photo)

MORROW — Clayton State didn’t bring home a team championship, but the Lakers had plenty of individual champions at the second annual Peach Belt Conference Track and Field Championship in Rome.

Lakers coach Mike Mead said he was pleased at the team’s performance in the three-day meet held at Baron Stadium.

“I’m pretty pleased overall with our effort,” Mead said.

The Laker women finished sixth out of eight teams while the Laker men placed fifth in the seven-team field.

“We didn’t have all the bells and whistles because we don’t fill all the events,” Mead said. “Our athletes gave a good effort.”

Hammer thrower Bryce Rauhof and distance runner Job Kemboi won two events at the meet. Rauhof won the shot put competition with a throw of 46-feet, 5½ inches, less than an inch and a half off the Clayton State record.

For his win in the hammer and his fourth place in the discus, Rauhof was named for the second straight season as the men’s PBC Field Athlete of the Year.

Kemboi, who won the 10,000-meter run on the second day of the meet, again used tactics to claim the PBC 5,000-meter title. By the fourth lap of the race, it came down to a two-person race between Kemboi and Shorter freshman Jordan Cross. On laps nine and 10, Kemboi put on a surge that Cross could not hold and went on to cruise to a winning time of 15:00.36.

“It was a good meet from both of them,” Mead said. “Job and Bryce continued the good performances they have turned in all season.”

Sophomore Jessica Matthews won the women’s triple jump with a leap of 38-11, an NCAA Div. II provisional mark. In addition, teammate Jhaquil Richardson finished third to grab some big points in the event for Clayton State.

Freshman Briana Heilsnis turned in a strong performance throughout the meet. She opened the meet with a hammer, which was followed by a runner-up finish in the discus. She closed the meet with a third place finish in the shot put with a 41-0½ throw, a personal-best for the North Carolina native.

For her efforts, Heilsnis was named the conference’s Field Athlete of the Year, in addition to the freshmen field athlete of the year.

Alabama-Huntsville repeated as the women’s team champions while host Shorter claimed the men’s team title. The two schools swapped out as the respective runner-ups.

The conference meet concludes the season for a majority of individuals on the Laker teams.

An elite group will be on the road next weekend. Kemboi will be heading to Michigan for a quality field in one last crack at a 10,000-meter race at Hillsdale College’s Gina Relays on Friday.

Meanwhile, Heilsnis, Matthews, Rauhof and a select handful of teammates will compete at the Coach ‘O’ Invitational at Troy University on Saturday in the hopes of either improving on or hitting an NCAA provisional qualifying mark.