MORROW — Jessica Matthews knows what to expect this afternoon when she competes in the NCAA Division II Track and Field Championships in Michigan.
As a freshman last year, it was a totally new experience for the triple jumper from Monroe.
She admits that she was a bit overwhelmed by everything in her first appearance at the championship meet. A year’s experience and marked improvement should help Matthews in her second performance.
“This was so new to me last year,” Matthews said. “I will try to use the experience I gained last year to my advantage. I’m not as nervous this year, but more excited about being in the competition.”
Matthews wasn’t the only Clayton State athlete to make the championship field. Sophomore distance runner Job Kemboi competed in the 10,000 meters on Thursday night. It was the first championship finals of the meet. Matthews will compete today at 4:45 p.m. in the triple jump.
She is the Peach Belt Conference champion in that event.
“Jessica can be competitive in her respective events,” Laker head coach Mike Mead said. “Jessica has been a steady performer in the triple jump this season and still has a big jump left in her this season that could get her in the Top 8.”
Matthews set the Laker record last season at 40 feet, 7.75 inches and finished 11th with a jump of 39-7.75 at the NCAA outdoor championship meet in Pueblo, Colo.
This season, she jumped a qualifying distance of 40-3.25 nearly two weeks ago at the Georgia Invitational. She won three triple jump competitions this season, including her first Peach Belt Conference title last month.
Clayton State assistant Clive Ceasar credits Matthews’ added strength that has helped her improve this season.
“She has really been dedicated to the weight room, and added strength and some speed,” he said. “Some of it has come through her natural growth and maturity. She really worked hard during the offseason and its paying off for her now.”
Mead said he expects to see some good jumps from Matthews at the track on the Grand Valley State University campus.
“I believe she can turn in career-best performances this week,” Mead said. “It is all about timing and she is right where she needs to be heading into this meet.”
In November, Kemboi competed in the NCAA Division II Cross-Country Championships in Washington. He finished 89th overall after sustaining an injury midway through the race.