Wed | Oct 4, 2023

Smith overcomes nervous start to land NCAA long jump title

Published:Saturday | June 10, 2023 | 12:35 AMRaymond Graham/Gleaner Writer
Ackelia Smith.
Ackelia Smith.
Kevona Davis
Kevona Davis

FORMER EDWIN ALLEN High athlete Ackelia Smith overcame a nervous start to pick up her first NCAA title on Thursday’s opening day of competition for female athletes at the NCAA Outdoor Division 1 Championships in Austin, Texas.

Competing at home for the University of Texas, Smith won the women’s long jump with a distance of 6.88 metres. It was the second win by a Jamaican athlete at the championships, following Carey McLeod’s victory in the men’s long jump a day earlier.

An eighth-place finisher in the event a year ago, Smith had fouls on her first two attempts, but did enough to get through to the final round on her third attempt.

After trailing in second going into her sixth and final attempt, the world leader in the event put the pressure on her main opponent, Alyssa Jones of Stanford University, by taking the lead by two centimetres. Jones then fouled on her final attempt to give Smith the win. Jones ended second with 6.86m. Defending champion Jasmine Moore of the University of Florida was third with 6.66m.

Smith will be hoping to close out a double on today’s final day of competition for women when she contests the final of the triple jump at 8:10 p.m., where she will be hoping to dethrone defending champion Moore. Smith was fourth in the event a year ago.

Commonwealth Games high jump champion Lamara Distin will also be hoping to continue her impressive collegiate record when she competes in the final of her pet event at 7:30 p.m. for Texas A&M University. Distin is the indoor champion in the event and also the defending outdoor champion. Former Wolmer’s Girls high jumper Danielle Anglin, now competing for University of South Dakota, will also contest the high jump.

Four Jamaicans, Ackera Nugent, Kevona Davis, Nickeisha Pryce and Lashana Graham, will be involved in finals on the track following semi-final action on Thursday night.


At 8:42 p.m. Nugent will line up in the women’s 100 metres hurdles final after winning her semifinal in 12.55 seconds to be the second-fastest qualifier behind defending champion Alia Armstrong of Louisiana State University (LSU), who won her semifinal in 12.54. Collegiate leader Masai Russell of the University of Kentucky had problems in her race before winning in 12.76.

Davis, who has been having her best season for the University of Texas, was impressive in qualifying for both the 100 and 200m finals. She will take the track at 8:42 p.m. in the 100m, where she is the third-fastest qualifier after winning her semifinal in 11.04. She will go for glory in the 200m final at 9:37 p.m., where she is the joint fastest qualifier with teammate Julien Alfred. Both won their semifinals in 22.33 seconds. World Under-20 champion Brianna Lyston of LSU failed to advance after an eighth-place finish in her semis in 23.43.

Davis will also be involved in the 4x100m final at 8:02 p.m. In the semifinals, she anchored her team to victory in a collegiate leading, facility, meet and championships record 41.55 seconds.

Former Vere Technical High 400m runner Pryce and former Edwin Allen High 400m runner Graham are the other Jamaicans down to contest finals of their events today.

Competing for the University of Arkansas, Pryce, who clocked a personal-best 50.31 seconds to finish as runner-up in her semifinals of the Women’s 400m, will compete at 9:02 p.m.

Graham, representing Clemson University, also clocked a personal best in placing second in her semifinal of the 400m hurdles in 56.02 seconds.