BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Birmingham-Southern track and field teams are all-in for the 2018 outdoor season. After back-to-back men's conference titles and competitive women's seasons, the Panthers believe they are in a great position to add on more hardware.
"This could very well be our best year ever," said Head Coach Kenneth Cox. "We have a lot of experience. This group has been through years of conference battles. So we're going to have to rely on our experience, rely on our training, and we're just going to have to keep the faith that the early challenges we experience are just tests. And if we can overcome that, then we'll be successful at the end of the season."
Men's Track and Field
The men return a strong core of sprinters, jumpers, and throwers. Senior Jamal Watkins (Hampton, Ga./Dodge City CC), a three-time All-American, is the reigning 60m and 100m national champion. He also holds the conference titles in the 100m and 200m dashes, and was on the championship 4x100m team that qualified for nationals. On the track, he is joined by sophomore Amir Sims (Orlando, Fla./Union Grove HS), junior Andrew Triplett (Hermitage, Tenn./Father Ryan HS), and senior Justin Peifer (Montgomery, Ala./Saint James School).
"Jamal is just special," said Cox. "He is committed to finishing his college career off on a high note. He knows that this will probably be one of the most challenging seasons he's had because of what he accomplished. But he's not satisfied."
Sims, an all-region sprinter, was a member of the conference champion 4x100m team that went onto nationals. Triplett is the reigning 400m hurdle champion, and Peifer, the lone distance senior, just finished up a successful cross country season.
"Amir is a leader because of his maturity," started Cox. "He's got a lot of talent, works hard and is committed to returning back to nationals as a sophomore. Andrew is one of the most consistent and hard working guys we have on the team. He had a great offseason and is really looking strong. Justin had a strong outdoor season last year. He came back healthy and has really taken on a leadership role, encouraging these young guys we have on the team that they can be a part of the championship culture here."
Juniors Kameren Morgan (Bowie, Md./St. Alban's School for Boys) and Javon Jones (Mobile, Ala./Cottage Hill Christian Academy) are two of the Panthers top field returners. Morgan is the reigning hammer throw champion and became an All-American after finishing third overall at nationals. Jones, an alternate on the 4x100m team, was conference runner-up in the long jump.
"Kameren has matured in an amazing way over the last two seasons," Cox said. "He has really become our leader in the throws and had a huge confidence boost in the postseason last year. Javon had a lot of success last year. Someone that is a silent leader, he doesn't talk a lot but works hard. Had a great summer of training and is stronger than he was last year. I really feel like outdoor is just going to be amazing for him."
The men welcome 10 newcomers who are expected to immediately contribute to the team's success.
"Our newcomers will really have an opportunity," started Cox. "They are in a position where they can actually help us continue to be competitive and successful at the conference level. Outdoor for those guys, will really be a chance for them to get some solid experience."
Women's Track and Field
The women return senior Karmin Shute (Fayetteville, Ga./The Walker School) and junior Rebecca Bryant (Decatur, Ga./Marist School) in sprints. Shute was a member of the conference champion 4x100m relay team and was an all-region selection in the 400m and 4x100m. Bryant was the conference runner-up in the 400m and scored points in the 200m dash.
"Karmin had some early success in her career, and every year she has made the podium. She's healthier than she's ever been and just really looks good. Rebecca works hard, and she's continuously gotten better every single year. She puts in the work and when it's time to race big, she's that person."
Senior Morgan Reynolds (Indian Springs, Ala./The Westminster School at Oak Mountain) and sophomore Marjorie Head (Columbiana, Ala./Shelby County HS) lead the distance group. The pair are coming off great cross country seasons. Head was a point scorer for the Panthers in the steeplechase last year at conference championships.
"Morgan has the most experience of any of our distance runners," said Cox. "A conference champion her sophomore year, she has been working extremely hard. Marjorie really came on as a freshman last year, and as a sophomore really had a great summer of training. She is definitely a leader."
In the field, junior Madelyn Nicastro (Huntsville, Ala./Grissom HS) will help supply the points push the Panthers need to move up in the league. She was a scorer in the high jump, long jump, triple jump, and javelin at conference championships last year.
"Maddy has come a long way," started Cox. "She's embraced being a diverse athlete in terms of her jumps and learning throws. She's going to be someone that has an opportunity to score in a number of ways and different events."
The women have a handful of newcomers to the Hilltop.
"I'm excited about our women newcomers," said Cox. "They're diverse. We've got a couple of women in different areas, disciplines within our sport. The ladies that we have coming in this year have been committed to have a successful season. I think there are going to be some surprises about how the women's team comes together."
BSC hosts two outdoor meets this season. They open the outdoor season at home with the 'Southern Invitational March 9-10, before hitting the road for the Jaguar Classic (March 16-17) and Emory Invitational (March 23-24). The Panthers return home on Friday, March 30 for the Hilltop Classic and senior day. SAA Championships are hosted by Sewanee this year and run April 20-21 in Sewanee, Tenn. The 2018 NCAA Division III Outdoor National Championships will be in Lacrosse, Wisc. May 24-26.