Track and field season ends on high note with All-American honors

Gator Women’s Track and Field athletes won All-American honors in two categories at the national championships meet last week, led by sophomore Keenya McDaniel, whose performance capped off a breakout year for her.

“We had a very good representation at Nationals,” said Head Coach Terry Burke. “On a nation-wide stage that’s noticeable, and I’m pretty happy about that.”

A photo of Gator Track & Field Athlete Keenya McDaniel.

Keenya McDaniel competes in a race earlier this year.

The NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships were held on the Colorado State University campus in Pueblo, Colorado from May 24 to 26. The Gator 4x400 relay team of Brionne Baucham, Alicia Chambers, Keenya McDaniel and Carrie Thomas placed seventh in the finals race, earning them the All American distinction. All-American honors are given to the top eight finishers in collegiate track and field championship competitions.

In the triple jump, Keenya McDaniel placed fifth overall with a leap of 40 feet, 9.5 inches, qualifying her for All-American honors. McDaniel had also earned an All-American title in the same event during the Indoor Championships in March, making her only the second Gator to become an All-American in both indoor and outdoor versions of the same event in one year.

“It feels amazing,” said McDaniel, who had missed competition most of her freshman year due to an ankle injury. “I was really just pleased that I was injury-free this year.”

McDaniel also won a prestigious coaches’ award in May. She was named the NCAA Division II West Region’s Female Track Athlete of the Year after voting by coaches from 19 schools from across the West Coast region. The honor, bestowed by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), came after a season in which McDaniel ranked 10th nationally in the 200-meter race and 16th nationally in the 100-meter. She also runs in SF State’s 4x10 relay team, which ranks sixth in the nation.

“It felt like validation,” McDaniel said about the award. “It kind of showed me that all my hard work this year paid off.”

After a successful season, Burke said that preparations and recruiting have already begun for next year’s team. Many of the athletes are returning, and Burke hopes to continue the progress the program has made in recent years.

“I’m proud of them,” said Burke of the team. “I’m really proud of them as people. When grades come out soon, I’ll be even more proud.”

-- Philip Riley