The collegiate track and field careers of two former metro-east greats — Jena Hemann and La’Derrick Ward — will come to an end this week when they compete at the 2015 NCAA Division I Outdoors Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.
The championships are being held at famed Heyward Field in the campus of the Univeristy of Oregon.
Ward, a Cahokia graduate, has the No. 1 jump in the nation — 26 feet 8 3/4 inches. He accomplished the distance at the recent NCAA West Regional in Austin, Texas. Ward recent was named the Ohio Valley Conference Track and Field Athlete of the Year for the second year in a row.
Ward enters the meet ranked No. 2 after a first-place jump of 26 feet, 8.5 inches at the NCAA West Preliminaries. Only Marquis Dendy, of Florida, has recorded a longer jump this season at 26-10.5.
“There will be a lot of talent there, but he is just as talented and is more prepared than last year,” said coach Eileen McAllister. “He is confident and poised. This will be his third time competing at this venue, so he is more comfortable. He is excited and ready to compete.”
In his sophomore campaign, Ward just missed on all three attempts and earned Honorable Mention All-American status. A season ago, he placed fourth in the long jump and was a first team All-American.
“Last year, his preparation was equally strong compared to this year,” said jumps coach Iliyan Chamov. “He is ready to peak at this competition. He’s healthy, experienced, and confident.”
Ward will compete Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. CDT. The event will be broadcast on ESPNU and ESPN3.
Ward went undefeated in the long jump during the season at four meets. He won the OVC title in the long jump for the second year in a row. He competed once in the triple jump at the OVC Championship, notching a mark of 50-2, finishing in second place, and besting his previous school record.
Hemann, a Breese Central graduate and now a senior at Texas A & M University, will compete in the grueling seven-event, two-day heptathlon beginning Wednesday. Ward, a recent graduate of Southern Illiniois University at Edwardsville, is one of the favorites in the men’s long jump which will be held on Wednesday beginning at 7:15 p,.m. Ward is a Cahokia High School graduate.
Like Ward, Hemann owns the school record in her event. She smashed the Texas A & M mark in the heptathlon, finishing with 6,002 points at the Texas Relays in March.
Seeded eighth heading into the NCAA Championships, Hemann placed 14th in the heptathlon a year ago.
Hemann will compete in the first four events —100 meter hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200 meters on Wednesday. The final three events — long jump, javelin and 800 meters — will be held on Thursday.