Strozier Jumps Into Sensational Sophomore Season
GREENSBORO (March 7, 2017) – Duane Ross, North Carolina A&T’s director of track and field programs, learned a valuable lesson over the 2016-17 indoor season and sophomore jumper Lasheon Strozier taught it to him.
Based on Strozier’s freshman season results, Ross thought Strozier could help the Aggies by continuing to improve in the jumps while scoring at the MEAC conference meet. Strozier did all those things and much more. Strozier along with junior sprinter Chris Belcher and sophomore hurdler Michael Dickson are headed to the 2017 NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships, scheduled for March 10-11 at Gilliam Indoor Stadium in College Station, Texas.
Belcher’s appearance in Texas this weekend in the 60 and 200 meters is no surprise considering Belcher qualified for the NCAA outdoor championships last season. Dickson, a competitor in the 60-meter hurdles this weekend, was no shocker either because he qualified for the same event at the NCAA indoors in 2016. Strozier, ranked 15th in the triple jump nationally, did amaze in 2017.
“At the beginning of this season I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting him to make it to NCAA,” said Ross. “Coming off the season he had previously, I was just saying he has to score at our conference championships. But I have learned to never underestimate any of my athletes.”
Strozier freshman season was not spectacular. He had season-highs in indoor and outdoor that never reached 50-feet in the triple jump, despite having a high school personal record of 50-feet, 5-inches. Strozier closed his 2016 season with a fifth-place finish in the triple jump at the MEAC indoor championships and a ninth-place finish at the outdoor conference championships. He only secured one win the entire year.
“Last year I was poo,” said Strozier as he reflected. “Last year I was kind of injured but that’s not much of an excuse. I think it was just more of that big transition from high school to college.”
As a high school athlete Strozier accumulated two state titles in Georgia and three national titles from separate USA Track and Field (USATF) national championships. However, the idea of a college environment was still daunting. Strozier described himself as being kind of scared along with a fear of failure on the track and in the classroom.
Strozier’s other problem, noted by both Strozier and Ross, was his ability to get acclimated to the Aggies’ way of training. Strozier said: “In high school I didn’t have that much coaching, it was really just all me. When I got here, I had to do a lot of stuff I’ve never done before like drills and workouts. It was a lot harder.”
At the end of his freshman year, Strozier was informed that much more was expected of him as a sophomore.
“We brought him in as a scholarship kid, and we had big expectations for him,” said Ross. “When I bring a kid in and I expect them to be a contributing factor and then they don’t score at conference, I’m not happy.”
Strozier got the message. In his first triple-jump competition of the season, Strozier won his event with a mark of 51-feet, 5 ¾-inches at the Clemson Orange & Purple Classic, toppling his old PR by more than a foot. More importantly, Strozier shot up to No. 1 in the nation after the meet and received co-field performer honors of the week from the MEAC—signifying the beginning of a drastically different year for the young performer.
Strozier would go on to increase his PR in the triple jump to 52-feet, 3 ¼-inches at the Hokie Invitational two weeks later and subsequently earn second-team all-MEAC honors as well.
“It’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Strozier,” said Ross. “He is literally two different people. He’s so much stronger this year. He’s so much more determined, and he’s so focused. But like I said, some athletes it just takes a little longer. It took him a season, but now that he’s had a taste of it, all I see is him going up, up, up, and away.”
Despite their pass successes, both Belcher and Dickson had setbacks of their own this season that may have deterred an average competitor from reaching nationals. Even Though Belcher qualified for the 60 meters early, he went into his last meet of the regular season ranked 37th in the nation in the men’s 200m.
Dickson struggled with a hamstring injury that kept him from participating in the 60-meter hurdles for most of the season. Both finished ranked top-16 in the country in their individual events – Dickson No. 3 in the 60mh – and Belcher No. 8 in the 200m and No. 12 in the 60m.