For the first time in Portland State history, Vikings teammates traveled together to the USATF Outdoor Championships. And for only the third time in PSU history, one of those teammates, sophomore Baileh Simms, finished the meet as a second team All-American.
Held in Eugene, the outdoor championships were the last meet of the 2014–15 season for most of the Vikings, which was one of the more successful seasons under head coach Ronnye Harrison, who has brought the program a number of top three finishes since he began as a Viking.
“Overall we’re really happy with the season,” assistant coach Johnathan Marcus said. “A lot of good things happened. Some results didn’t go our way, but you can’t have it all.”
Simms brings a bright future to the women’s program. Following the success of athletes like Geronne Black and Joenisha Vinson—who are the other second team All-American Vikings—Simms still has time to build on her performance from this season, in which she had personal bests all over the board.
Her path to the outdoor championships included a jump in production towards the end of the season, and it happened at exactly the right time. Three straight meets to end the year finished with Simms jumping over 20 feet. At the outdoor championships, her jump was good enough to earn her 15th place at the meet.
Standing beside Simms in Eugene was fellow teammate Jasmine Woods. A senior, Woods was competing in the 100 meter dash. Her time of 11.63 seconds wasn’t enough to earn her the title of All-American, but it was good enough for 23rd place, which is quite a feat for an athlete coming from a school like PSU, which has limited facilities.
“It speaks well to our training,” Marcus said. “And the relationship between the athletes and the coaches.”
The coaches have made a big impact on the athletes, specifically Harrison, who has pushed the program towards broken record after broken record, whether it is at the individual or team level. To put Harrison’s impact in perspective, the head coach has had six athletes make national meets. Only nine athletes have achieved that level in PSU history.
On top that, the three Vikings who have seen success at the national level and have received the title of All-American all did it within the last three years.
“He’s done a lot, a lot of great things for this program,” Marcus said. “He’s found areas and opportunities to be competitive within the Big Sky conference for the men and women respectively.”
In his eighth season on the Park Blocks, Harrison has been well known for his ability to coach sprinters. And while the sprinting program has flourished lately (24 of Harrison’s 36 Big Sky champions have been sprinters), the program has grown in a number of other events, which was shown by Simms’ impressive performance in the long jump.
The season is not quite over for all the Vikings, with just one meet remaining for a single track and field athlete. Freshman Jose Macias set a personal record at the Portland Track Festival last weekend on the campus of Lewis and Clark. Not only did Macias’ time of 31:57:31 in the 10,000 meter beat his previous record by 40 seconds, it also qualified him for the USA Track and Field Junior Outdoor Championships. That meet will be held from June 25–28 in Eugene.
“It’s exciting,” Marcus said. “It’ll be a great experience for him.”
To qualify for the junior outdoor championships, athletes have to be under 20 years old. The meet in Eugene will truly serve as the last meet of the season for the Vikings.
Up next for PSU’s track and field program is summer training before next season’s indoor campaign.