FRIDAY, JULY 15, 2011
Track & field has an eye towards the future with 2011 signing class
A talented and diverse group of eight new student-athletes is set to help the JU track & field team with its championship tradition.

The coaching staff worked to replace the most accomplished senior class in program history. In all, the graduating class accounted for 46 individual conference championships, 84 all-conference performances and never lost an A-Sun team track and field championship.

Head coach Ron Grigg knows that the 2011 signing class can fill the shoes left by the 2011 seniors and help the Dolphins sooner, rather than later.

“Coaches Bambi Carson and Natasha Harvey did an excellent job of identifying and communicating with many talented prospective student-athletes, their families and their coaches,” said Grigg, whose program wrapped up its sixth straight A-Sun title sweep in 2011. “For a program to improve you must replace talent with talent. We knew we were graduating an excellent group, so we knew we need to bring in an excellent group.”

“We do not place any limits on ourselves when identifying potential student-athletes. Of course, we begin looking close to home and within Jacksonville, and then within the state of Florida. We also search regionally, then nationally and finally internationally. We are looking for student-athletes who identify with the culture of Jacksonville University and the culture of our track and field team. We are looking for excellence while attempting to maintain a balanced program that can compete in all event areas. I think we have found the right group to help us continue our steady improvement.”

The 2011 signing class comes from both near and far while also representing each event area. The group joining the Dolphins for next season will be Sarah Bailey (Vernon, British Columbia, distance), Shadaey Campbell (Orlando, Fla., sprints), Sally Marie Futch (Statesboro, Ga., throws), Petra Munkacsy (Budapest Hungary, hurdles/combined event), LaToya Payne (Mabbleton, Ga., sprints/hurdles), Alexis Taylor (Sanford, Fla., hurdles), Courtney Walker (Jacksonville, Fla., sprints) and Shanique Walker (San Jose, Calif., hurdles/jumps).

Bailey will help the distance and middle distance groups immediately after posting a personal best time of 2:13.83 in the 800-meter and 4:38.99 in the 1500-meter while running in Canada.

“Sarah should impact our top five in cross country and will have a chance to develop within our excellent middle-distance group,” said Grigg. “Her high school marks will make her very competitive within the conference and she will have a chance to impact a strong distance medley relay indoors. She will also study within our honors program at JU.”

Campbell tallied a personal best time of 11.91 in the 100-meter and a 55.39 in the 400-meter while attending Olympia High School Orlando, Fla.

“Shadaey has the range to run well in every sprint event and every relay we put on the track,” said Grigg. “I look forward to finding out where her talents lie as we decide if the short sprints or the long sprints will be her ultimate focus.”

Futch, who attended Bulloch Academy in Statesboro, Ga., ranked as high as 10th nationally in the hammer toss and 15th in the weight throw. She has earned all-region and all-state honors during her first three seasons as well as three state titles in the discus and one in the shot put. Futch has boasted a personal best of 132’8” in the discus, 155’2” in the hammer and a 48’4.5” in the weight throw.

“Sally-Marie has the ability to throw every implement well,” said Grigg. “She has the advantage of having both weight and hammer throw experience in high school. That will help make the learning curve less steep for her.”

Munkacsy is the 2011 Hungarian National Champion in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.56 and has also posted a personal best of 13.85 in the 100-meter hurdles. She comes from an accomplished athletic family as her father, Sándor, competed in the Decathlon in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and her mother, Bálint Zita set the Hungarian national triple jump record while competing in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

“We’ve never signed a hurdler out of high school with indoor and outdoor personal bests as fast as Petra,” Grigg said. “She will add to an already talented and deep hurdle group while beginning to experiment with the pentathlon and heptathlon. Both of her parents were Olympians and I am honored to see if we can help her advance to that level as well.”

Payne, a transfer from Fort Valley State, has personal best times of 56.38 in the 400-meter and 2:12.59 in the 800-meter. She tallied a season-best time of 59.90 in the 400-meter hurdles on May 14 at the Alicia Coleman Invitational, which ranked as the seventh-best mark nationally entering the NCAA Division II National Championship meet.

“LaTonya has been a national level competitor at Division II, and she wants to be a national level competitor at Division I,” said Grigg. “Her versatility will make her valuable on our 4x4s and she can be called upon to run anything from the 100-meter hurdles to cross country if necessary. I love her passion for training and racing.”

Taylor ran a 300-meter hurdle time of 43.37 for Lake Mary High School at the FSU Relay which ranked 18th nationally and third in Florida.

“Alexis will focus on the long hurdles, but I have seen her sprint and I know she has the talent to make our 4x1 and 4x4 relays very strong,” commented Grigg. “She has tremendous upside in a variety of sprint and hurdle events.”

Courtney Walker, a Jacksonville native, has a personal best times of 11.86 in the 100-meter and posted a 24.34 in the 200-meter.

“Courtney has so much room to improve from a technical standpoint,” said Grigg. “While her high school times are excellent, I look forward to helping her unlock her true potential. We are always proud when a Jacksonville native chooses to attend Jacksonville University.”

The West Coast native Shanique Walker concludes this class on one of the highest notes after winning the triple Jump at the US Junior Track & Field Championships with a leap of 40’11.75” on June 25. She is also listed as the No. 4 long jumper and No. 6 triple jumper in the nation by Track & Field News. Her personal best are 20’ 0” in the long jump, 41’ 6” in the triple jump, 14.11 in the 100-meter hurdles and 43.60 in the 300-meter hurdles.

“There is nothing Shanique can’t do,” said Grigg. “She has been successful in both horizontal jumps and both hurdle events. While the triple jump will be her focus, she will certainly impact our program in a variety of events.”

“On paper this is a truly outstanding class,” said Grigg. “Coach Carson and Coach Harvey should be commended for their work. Now our job is to take the potential for excellence and turn it into actual excellence. That will require a partnership of hard work from both coach and athlete. Only time will tell how good this group will be.”