Highly targeted Lady Rams continue quest for CIAA dominance
After capturing a 2016 cross country conference title and indoor track conference titles in 2015 and 2016, the Winston-Salem State women’s track and field team is the team to beat this outdoor season.
Head Coach Inez Turner agreed the Lady Rams have grown into a dominant force in the CIAA, and as a result, have become a target for other teams in the conference. Turner said her team will have to exceed its opponents’ level of intensity to claim the outdoor title and capture the track and field “season sweep.”
“We know there [are] teams targeting us because we are the champs,” said Turner, who’s in her sixth year as head of the program.
“I know that teams are definitely pushing to get this one, and we’re going to push harder.” The Lady Rams will treat this outdoor track season as if they were after their first title, according to Turner.
“As usual, we are going to not take anything lightly,” she said, adding that the athletes are working hard and that the coaches are working to prepare them for the CIAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships April 15-16.
Turner said that the season is going relatively well and credited an array of this season’s standout performers: Tametris Morrison, Ty-Leah Hampton, Domtila Kiplagat, Taska Johnson, Rachel Bonham, Fawzia Kheir and throwers Lyssa Wallace O’Neal, Rikera Waters and Alvandra McNeil.
Kheir, a middle-distance runner, transferred from Norfolk State University, joined the Lady Rams in January of 2016 and made an immediate impact, according to Turner. Kheir also agreed that the Lady Rams are a major target in the CIAA,
“We’re a target now [for] outdoor season,” said Kheir, a senior psychology major from Jersey City, N.J.
“Right now… two teams, Saint Augustine’s and Johnson C. Smith, are really out to get us.” Kheir expressed the same sentiment as Turner regarding the season outlook for the Lady Rams.
“Our outlook is really to win another championship,” she said.
Kheir said she’s enjoying her experience thus far at WSSU after an unaccomplished 2014-2015 season at NSU. She said she despised her season there and left because of “lack of communication,” continuing that she felt uncomfortable and “[NSU] just made me hate track and field.”
Kheir posted a time of 2:13 in the 800-meter run in the Winthrop Invitational March 25-26, which is a personal record for her at WSSU. At the CIAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, she placed in the 3000-meter run, 800, 1600 and 4x400 meter relay, as she helped WSSU to a second consecutive conference title.
She said for the Lady Rams to achieve their desired goals, they have to “put it out there, stay positive, be motivated and have guts.”
Rachel Bonham, a sprinter and jumper, also agreed that the Lady Rams’ track program has established themselves as the dominant force in the CIAA.
Turner esteems Bonham as one of the premier athletes on the team, and lauded her exceptional performance in the indoor conference championships.
Bonham, a sophomore mass communications major from Washington, D.C., placed second in the pentathlon and was named the field events co-MVP. Though Bonham placed ninth in the Winthrop Invitational in the 100 hurdles, she ran a personal-best 14.9 seconds, which she said she was pleased with.
The Lady Rams have positive intentions, but the season hasn’t been spotless; Turner, Kheir and Bonham said the Lady Rams have a few deficiencies and that there is room for improvement.
“We’re a bit weak when it comes down to field event areas,” Turner said.
According the Bonham, the most plausible reason for this is the loss of multiple seniors from last season who brought a wealth of experience and talent.
“We lost like 10 people [from] last year; they were seniors and most of them did field events,” Bonham said, adding that the current field athletes are young and inexperienced for the most part.
Kheir said “the team has a good vibe,” but “our downfall overall is not really putting our heads together.” She also said the group shows lacks focus from time to time.
Despite minor setbacks and shortcomings, Turner said the Lady Rams will aim to qualify for the NCAA Division II National Outdoor Track and Field Championships in every event possible.
Bonham, who walked on in cross country in fall 2014 and has rocketed since that time, expressed maximal confidence in herself, coaches and teammates in spite of this season’s inadequacies.
“If anyone wants to beat us, they have to have the top girls because we have the top girls,” she said.
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