Two women strive to be first-evers

Justin Schmithorst, Sports Editor

The Pitt-Johnstown track team has multiple athletes who are competing to get into the 2018 NCAA Division 2 track and field national meet in Birmingham, Alabama.

According to track and field coach Carl Keifer Jr., distance runner Tori Fulkroad and long-jumper Kia Clayton are close to qualifying for the national tournament.

“(Fulkroad) is not the only student-athlete that is close to a national time or mark. Kia Clayton has already hit the provisional mark in the triple jump. She was ranked 15th in the nation last week,” Keifer said.

Both Clayton and Fulkroad said they made it their preseason goal to compete nationally.

“We’ve been doing a lot more conditioning just so that we have the energy to do all of our jumps without getting tired,” Clayton said.

Keifer has also been helping them out.

“We talk about things like eating the right foods, cutting soda out of your routine and getting the proper rest in order to improve. As a coaching staff we have been discussing what each of these athletes needs to do in order to make it to nationals,” Keifer said.

Fulkroad also has a rigorous training regimen.

“My training consists of long runs, tempo runs, progressive runs, speed and workouts. That week’s speed workout consisted of mile repeats, 800 (meter) repeats and 400 (meter) repeats,” Fulkroad said.

Fulkroad added that when she runs, her mind thinks about her goal.

“Nationals are in the back of my mind during every race I run,” Fulkroad said.

According to Clayton, she has already hit the provisional mark to qualify.

“I hit the provisional mark, so I have a chance of making it to nationals, but to guarantee myself a ticket, I’ll need to jump 12.43 meters, which is about .8 meters away from my best jump. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s about two feet,” Clayton said.

Keifer offered some perspective on where the women are on reaching their goals.

“If (Fulkroad)  reaches her personal record, she will be seeded fourth in the country in the 3000-meter (run). (Clayton) needs to improve her jump by just two centimeters and she will be sixth, if she reaches her personal record, she will be seeded No. 1 in the nation,” Keifer said.

Kiefer noted what some of the firsts that could come.

“They could go to the NCAA Division 2 meet in Birmingham, Alabama.  If they qualify, they would become the first All-American athletes in the track program’s history,” Keifer said.

According to Clayton, nationals mean more than just competion.

“Nationals (are) important to me because its always been this dream that I thought was kind of far- fetched, and, now that I’m so close, I’m excited to see what is to come,” Clayton said.