For years the Tennessee State University women’s track program has been known for its sprinters and relay teams. On Friday, the Tigerbelles lived up to their legacy by clinching the 2015 Ohio Valley Conference Championship, the first since 2008 and the eighth overall under legendary Coach Chandra Cheeseborough-Guice.
A former Olympian, who made history by snagging two gold medals at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, Cheeseborough-Guice was also named ‘Women’s Coach of the Year.’
She could not hide her excitement as the Lady Tigers finished 128.5 points ahead of Eastern Illinois with 127 points, and defending champions South Missouri with 108.5 points.
“I am so excited right now,” said Cheeseborough-Guice. “These young ladies stepped up and got it done. We were down in numbers, but the numbers we had shored up against the larger squads. I am so proud to be a Tigerbelle.”
TSU President Glenda Glover was equally excited about the Tigerbelles’ championship.
“On behalf of the university, I congratulate the team and coaches for an outstanding performance on winning the OVC championship,” President Glover said. “We are so proud of you all for persevering and giving it your all to come out as champions. Your heart, talent, commitment and sportsmanship have brought us much pride. Again, congratulations!”
The track teams’ championship is the second TSU OVC title this year. On March 7, the TSU women’s basketball team was crowned OVC Champs following a 64-60 win over #1 seeded UT Martin. The victory clinched the Tigerbelles a place in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995.
In Saturday’s meet, despite delays due to lightening and heavy rains, the Tigerbelles managed to claim seven events and 23 scoring finishes. Amber Hughes, Diera Taylor, Christian Pryor and Kayla Pryor teamed up for the 4×400 relay and crossed the line first in a time of 3:44.96.
Hughes led the way as she claimed four-top finishes and broke a 29-year old record. The sophomore broke the tape in 13.27 in the 100-meter hurdles to erase an OVC Championship mark, which had been around since 1986.
Hughes also claimed the top spot in the 200-meter dash (23.66) and the triple jump (12.90m/42-04.00). The Atlanta product was also a member of the 4×100 relay team that placed third.
“Somehow we were not expected to win this tournament,” Hughes said. “We just wanted to do well, but when it came down to it, the whole team mind shifted and we gave it our very best. That’s how we were able to
win. It was a team effort.”
For the second year straight, Clairwin Dameus won the heptathlon as she amassed 5,396 points. The total was three points shy of her OVC record of 5,399 set in 2014.
Dameus continued her busy weekend as she finished second in the long jump with a leap of 6.16m (20-02.50) and placed sixth in the 400-meter hurdles (1:04.35). The junior was also a member of the third place 4×100 team.
Freshman Kayla Pryor and sophomore I’mani Davis recorded the final two individual championships for the Tigerbelles. Pryor claimed the title in the 400-meter hurdles in a time of 1:00.18, while Davis won the high jump as she cleared the bar in her second attempt at 1.73m (5-08.00).
Davis, also a member of the Lady Tigers basketball team, became the first athlete in TSU history to be a part of OVC championship teams in two separate sports. The Tulsa, Oklahoma native is a two-year starter with the Lady Tigers and just completed her first season with the Tigerbelles.
With three members qualifying, the next stop for the Tigerbelles is the regionals in the NCAA East Preliminary Round in Jacksonville, Florida May 28. Hughes will represent TSU in the 100-meter hurdle and the 200-meter dash. Dameus will participate in the long jump, and Davis the high jump.