EUGENE, Ore. – Sophomore La'Derrick Ward made history Thursday evening, becoming the first SIUE track and field athlete in program history to compete at NCAA Division I National Championships.
Competing in the men's long jump, Ward went into the event ranked ninth out of the 24 athletes in the field. He fouled on each of his three jump attempts.
"It's bittersweet because of how hard he worked to get here," Head Coach Kareem Jackson said. "We're disappointed with the way it ended, but it was a great season for him. You don't make it this far by luck or by chance."
LSU senior Damar Forbes earned the NCAA title with a jump of 27 feet, 4.75 inches. Raymond Higgs of Arkansas finished second (26-4.25), while Ohio State's Mike Hartfield took third (26-1.5).
By competing at the final round of national championships, Ward earned honorable mention All-American status.
Jackson said that the crowd at Oregon's Hayward Field was behind Ward, who had three impressive jumps but just missed having a qualifying mark.
"All three of his jumps were over 26 feet," Jackson said. "It had nothing to do with nerves or anything like that. This was honestly the fastest he's ever been coming down the runway, but he just missed it. It's unfortunate."
Thursday marked the end of a stellar sophomore campaign for Ward. The Cahokia, Ill. native advanced to the NCAA Division I National Championships after posting a jump of 25-8.25 (7.83m) at the NCAA West Preliminaries in Austin, Texas May 23.
The mark broke Ward's own outdoor school record in the men's long jump, eclipsing his previous program best leap of 25-2 set last season. Ward also holds the indoor school record in the long jump, posting a mark of 24-1.75 in a dual meet against Southeast Missouri February 1.
"La'Derrick will have to wait 365 days to get back here," Jackson added. "We talked about where he goes from here, and how he'll use this experience as motivation. The biggest thing will be how he communicates this experience to his teammates, to inspire them to step their game up so we have more athletes here next season."