GULF SHORES, Ala. — Ismaelle Occeus could not have been in a tougher spot.
The Brenau senior had just one more attempt in the triple jump Friday night at the NAIA Outdoor Track & Field Championships after fouling on her first two tries. Among the 24 entrants, only nine would advance and get three more jumps and the chance to become All-American.
Occeus stood under a tree at Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium, gathering her thoughts and staying out of the sun. Her coach, Byron Kramer, told her to move back a bit on her approach.
“I said, ‘Still be aggressive and go for it, because you’ve got to get a good jump to have a shot,’” Kramer said.
Occeus thundered down the runway for her hop, step and jump, then quickly got out of the pit.
“I just had to look back and make sure they didn’t put the red flag up,” Occeus said.
The jump was legal.
“She almost made it,” Kramer said.
The mark was 37 feet, 6 inches, just 4¼ inches shy of ninth place. Occeus was 10th.
“Just seeing that number, I knew I could beat it if I’d had three more jumps,” said Occeus, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, who also placed 21st in the long jump on Thursday night. “I wanted to make up for those two scratches. It was a good season. I’m glad to say my final year I got to go to nationals. I wish I had placed.”
Occeus, who graduated with a degree in biology, hopes to get a job in research or as a medical scribe at a hospital.
She came into the triple jump ranked 11th.
“It was an abrupt end to her college career, but that’s part of sport,” Kramer said. “If your best jump is (39 feet) meters and you’re the No. 1 or 2 seed, then you have some margin for error — you can get a safe jump. But when your best mark is right around where the cutoff is going to be (38-3 ¼), then you have to go for it on all three jumps.”
Earlier Friday, Brenau senior Cheyenne Wells was 28th in the 100-meter hurdles and freshman Sydney Romine was 29th. Wells finished fifth in her heat with a time of 15.13 seconds while Romine was seventh in her heat in 15.16.
“They both ran hard,” said Kramer, the second-year coach at Brenau whose team finished 24th in the NAIA last year behind strong performances from graduated athletes Olamide Sokunbi and Deishane’ Honeycutt.
Wells, an accounting major from Sandy Springs, Georgia, had the “B” standard in the 100 hurdles, the 100 meters and 200 meters, but chose the hurdles “because it’s the most fun,” she said. “You can see how other people mess up and say, ‘OK, let’s go.’”
Wells still has one more indoor season of eligibility and hopes to train in the 400-meter hurdles for a shot at the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic team. She is a U.S. citizen, but her parents were born in Trinidad.
For all three Brenau athletes, it was unusual to have only one event a day. During a season in which the Golden Tigers won their fifth straight SSAC title, all are extremely busy. Wells competes in the 100, 200, 400, 100 hurdles, 4 x 400 and 4 x 100 relays and sometimes long jump. Before this year, she also occasionally threw the javelin.
Occeus does the long jump, triple jump, 100, 200, 400 and the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relays. She and Kramer decided to keep her out of cross country this season, which helped her improve her sprinting.
Romine, a business major from Jasper, Georgia, competes in the 100 hurdles, the 400 hurdles and the heptathlon – which is composed of seven events. She was the only Golden Tiger to compete at the NAIA indoor nationals, running the 60-meter hurdles.
“I definitely now have experience,” Romine said, “so it will help me the next few years and hopefully I can come back.”