GREENSBORO – Junior North Carolina A&T jumper Keenan Smith owns the jump pits at Irwin Belk Track.
He can’t show any paperwork or a deed to this effect, but he can show his 50-feet, 7 ½ inch triple jump from the 2012 International Friendship and Freedom Games at Irwin Belk Track. He can also present evidence of ownership with his 50-foot, 11-inch triple jump at this season’s Aggie Invitational. In case that is not enough proof, Smith jumped a personal-best 51-feet, 2 ¾ inches on Saturday to earn the MEAC triple jump title at the 2013 MEAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Smith has jumped better than 50 feet in the triple jump four times in his career, three of those jumps occurred at Irwin Belk.
If Smith’s jumps are not enough to prove the pits belong to him, his teammates have a suggestion.
“They tell me I should go ahead and just sign my name in the pit every time I finish competing,” Smith said jokingly.
Smith refused to let anyone take his property. He took ownership of the event with his first jump, a 50-foot, 4-inch leap, that would have won him the competition. But with his second jump, he decided to go a little farther, the personal record jump that assured him the gold. He fouled on his next three jumps, but after Smith’s first two jumps, the other jumpers were just visiting.
“I get very territorial about my pit,” Smith said in all seriousness. “MEACs, Last Chance and (NCAA) regionals all here…I’m so excited. I’m expecting to go out and bust something crazy. I don’t know what it is, 54, maybe 55 feet…Imma go for it.”
Smith scored 16 of the Aggies’ fifth-place 62 points. He helped the 4x100 meter relay team of Desmond Lawrence, Marquis Noble and Jeffrey Lewis finish third with a time of 41.37. Lawrence also had a stellar day. In addition to his third place finish in the 4x100, he and Savanna State’s Darrius Baker staged an entertaining 100 meter final. Lawrence overcame a slow start out of the blocks to sprint into the lead. He appeared to have his first MEAC gold medal in hand before Baker came on strong in Lane 2 and ran a 10.39. Lawrence did run a personal-best 10.42, but he had to be surprised to see Baker sprint past him on the left.
“Man, he came out of nowhere,” said Duane Ross, A&T’s director of track and field programs, about Baker’s victory. Ross said the A&T track and field and football programs are going to enjoy Lawrence, the East Carolina transfer. “As a two-sport athlete, he is going to be a great representative for the school,” he said. “He is one of those kids who will tell you, ‘Whatever you need me to do coach to make us better.’ He is going to be a great athlete for us.”
Sophomore Christian Harrison also had a second-place finish. He came into the 800 meter final with the best time in the conference, but on the final 200 meters of the race, he had a difficult time making his move to the front because he got boxed in with several other runners. By the time he broke free, Hampton’s Edose Ibadin leads was too big to overcome. Harrison finished in 1:51.60.
“Christian is going to learn from that and bounce back. He’s too good not to,” said Ross.
Saeed Jones also had a good day for the Aggies in distance. He finished second in the 3000 meter steeplechase and second in the 1500 meter run. But in the end, the championships were the pits for the Aggie men. Sophomore Marquis Noble won the long jump title on Friday and Smith took home the triple jump on Saturday.
“It’s not easy hosting an event, but there are some benefits,” said Ross. “We train at the same pit over and over again, so you should have the feeling that no one is going to come in here and run you over. The thing about Kennan is he is turning into a great young man, not just a great young athlete, but a great young man.”