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WSSU spring game to benefit Second Harvest
Winston-Salem State University will have its Spring Football Game on April 11 at 3 pjn.The loca
tion will be at Glenn High School, 1600 Union Cross Road in Kernelsville. Admission is free with two
non-perishable food items. All food items are being donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank. For more
information on Rams football, visit www.WSSURams.com.
Photo by Erin Mizelle for The Chronicle
Winston-Salem State University's football team practices.
from page 61
Whether WSSU can put together a lengthy win
streak before the end of the regular season is anyone's
guess. At this juncture, that's what it would take for the
Lady Rams to have a legitimate shot at reaching the .500
I UHMK JHHHI 1
Photos by Craig T. Greenlee
Freshman catcher Melissa Carillo has turned in
solid performances for the Lady Rams.
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the team and they put me any and everywhere. But my
mentality was to stay focused and do what I came out do
which was to put in the work and effort in a sport that I
SW: Once you made the team, what prompted you to
see how much you could achieve?
McNeill: I was inspired to get better because of all the
teammates who were NCAA qualifiers and/or nationally
ranked in their events. I had to do everything I could to
keep up with them (in workouts). To do that, I knew 1
would have to dedicate myself to working hard. If I didn't
make it, I could still be satisfied because I would know
that I poured all of myself into it. But I thank God because
He blessed me and made it possible for me to excel as a
SW: You've decided to turn pro when your track days
are done at WSSU. What sparked your desire to compete
at that level?
McNeill: 1 had never thought about being a profession
al athlete . That 's something that really became clear to me
not so long ago. I think that everybody in track and field
should have the dream of eventually competing as a pro
fessional one day. Since I wanted to follow in the footsteps
of some of my nationally-ranked teammates, I set some
short-term goals. I wanted to be a national qualifier and it
happened. Then, I wanted to make All-America and that
came to pass, too.
Now, my No. 1 goal is to be the NCAA Division II
(outdoor) national champion in the triple jump. That's
what I'm working towards right now. I've put in a lot of
work and was able to accomplish my previous goals fairly
quickly. So, I feel like the next step for me is to take it to
the professional level. Achieving those short-term goals
helped me realize that it's possible for me to make good
on my long-term goal to compete as a professional athlete.
SW: You've done a little bit of everything in WSSU
track. It seems like the heptathlon would be a good fit for
you once your college days are done. What are your
thoughts about that?
McNeill: The heptathlon has been brought up a few
times by my coaches. I'm not opposing it. But I know my
passion is in the jumps. I've put in a huge amount of effort
and work into everything they have me doing. I feel like
I'm dedicated enough to each and every event. If I can put
that same amount of energy into just one specific event, or
maybe two jumps, who knows how far I can go from
SW: Tell me about track and field at your high school
(Greensboro's Grimsley). Did it help prepare you for col
McNeill: It made me appreciate the sport more. It
mark by early May when the conference championships
- are held in Cary.
"We're looking to get on track and hopefully, we'll
be playing our best right ball towards the end of the reg
ular season," said Hilliard-Gray. "We won't be satisfied
just to win the tournament and go to the regionals. The
goal is to compete and make it past the first round."
The Lady Rams, 6-2 in the C1AA, are led by three
players who provide stability and versatility.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Mercedes Hargett is
arguably WSSU's best player. As a pitcher, she has a 6
9 record with 91 strikeouts and 38 walks. At the plate,
she's batting .382 with four home runs and 15 RBIs.
Hargett ranks among the CI A A leaders in pitching wins,
RBIs and homers.
"After her freshman year, she worked hard in the off
season and 1 could tell the difference right away," said
Hilliard-Gray. "When she came back, she was a much
better player than she was a year ago."
Chyna Riley (.386 batting average) has emerged as
productive utility player who can pitch and play in the
outfield and at second base. Under Hilliard-Gray's guid
ance, Riley, a sophomore, has transitioned well as a con
verted left-handed hitter, who bats in the lead-off posi
tion in the lineup.
"Hitting from the left side helps Chyna to take full
advantage of her speed," Hilliard-Gray said. "She's
petite (5-feet-4), but plays much bigger than her size."
Katrina Bartlett, a senior who alternates between
third base and shortstop, originally attended junior col
lege and switched to playing in the outfield. Hilliard
Gray convinced her to change back lo being an infielder
when she came to WSSU. The move has worked out
well for all parties involved.
Bartlett is the team's leading hitter (.413) and she's
tied with Hargett for the team lead in home runs and
RBIs. "Katrina has stepped up as one the voices of lead
ership," Hilliard-Gray said. "She's aggressive at the
plate and she's good with the glove."
Winston-Salem State will return to action with a dou
bleheader at home against Barton College on April 17 at
Salem College Field. The first game is set to begin at 4
helped me to grow my love for track and I
learned all about the value of hard work.
When I was at Grimsley we didn't have a
great track and we didn't have a lot of people.
It wasn't the ideal place to have a track team.
In practices, it felt like we were running on
concrete. In making the transition from high
school to college, that's what I carried with
me. You have to work hard. It's not about
you, it's about the team. Those are the values
I carry with me today.
SW: You've earned multiple All-America
honors over the past three years. What do you
most want to accomplish by the time your
college track career is over?
McNeill: One thing that's really been on
my heart in recent weeks is to pour into my
teammates. I want to tell them what I know
and what I've learned. If you love the sport,
then it's mandatory that you put some effort
into it. At the college level, it requires a lot
more out of you, so it's not as easy. It's not
about the athlete's feelings. It's about the
team, it's about the sport. It's about what can
you do to help the sport to grow.
SW: Has your career turned out the way
you thought it would?
, McNeill: When I first got here, I didn't
have any great expectations for myself. It was
like I was dreaming. I never thought I would
be able to accomplish in the manner that I
have. There were so many great people who
were already at WSSU before I came.
compared to them, I wasn't so sure about |
how well I could jump or how well I could
run. The only thing I knew for sure was that I '
could work hard. Even if I wasnt all that i
good. I was going to make sure that I would
continue to snow progress over the weeks to
come. Track and field was something 1 really wanted to
do. That's my passion for the sport.
SW: What's been your biggest challenge as a college
McNeill: For me, any type of transition is a challenge.
In my sport, I went from the jumping events to hurdles and
being part of the 4x100 relay. Making transitions gives me
an uncomfortable feeling. I try my best to do what I can.
But I have my coaches helping me. They've held my hand
and walked me through and I've gotten great support from
my teammates. With that kind of support and encourage
ment, it's been so much easier for me to deal with transi
tion. I really appreciate that.
SW: When you compete in the long jump and triple
jump, you always start to clap and then others join in with
you. How did that start? How does it help?
McNeill: There are a lot of jumpers who do that
already. My jumps coach (Austin Davis) got that started
with me. In practice I was always analytical and always
striving to be perfect in every detail. He felt I could do bet
ter if I learned to relax during competition. So, he suggest
ed that I start a slow clap right before I take off down the
I was so scared and afraid to try it. I'd seen it done
before, but didn't think it would be any good for me.
When we tried it that first time in practice, I was so
worked up and nervous, but excited at the same time.
I'll never forget how it all came together. I jumped far
ther than I ever had before (a personal best). I forgot all
about technique and everything else. That's when I found
out that the hand clap helps me to relax and do what T
already know how to do.
( < A
Photo by Craig T Greenlee
Tajanel McNeill is one of the premier triple jumpers in the NCAA
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point to make a clean jump. If
the athlete doesn't generate
enough speed on the run-up
approach, he or she may not
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the bar. If they _
chop their steps on I
the approach, it I
will slow momen- I
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the proper take-off P
point is equally I
important. Taking r
off too close to the [
bar, or taking off
too far away from
the bar. will cause
a missed attempt. As jumpers
attempt to clear greater
heights, technique becomes
even more crucial.
"The key is to stay consis
tent with technique all the
way through the jump,"
Caldwell said. "But it's also
about spacing. As the bar is
raised, you develop a feel for
what adjustments to make on
where to start your approach
and where to start your take
Tim Sullivan, a Wake
Forest assistant coach who
specializes in the vertical
jumps, has worked with
Caldwell over the past three
years. There are no doubts in
his mind about her capabili
ties for this outdoor season.
Nyki is in a very
good place right
now," he said.
by leaps and
bounds in her
and her knowl
I knows she can
than what she
did at the ACC
meet and she's still hungry. Is
jumping 6-feet possible for
her? Absolutely. It's all about
Nyki competing and perform
ing to the best of her ability.
"Now that we're in the
outdoor season, we're in a
new training cycle, so we're
building everything towards
the championships in May
and June. As we get closer to
the end of the season, Nyki
could be one of the best high
jumpers in the country."
Kiah Ruffin races home to score a run for the Lady
LL* Z? 1. 1 I
LaTaya Hilliard-Gray, WSSU Softball coach