Track: Bulls duo earns All-America honors
Barely a half-decade after discovering the triple jump, Matthew O'Neal made another astounding discovery Saturday in Oregon: the nation's most exclusive medal stand.
The lanky sophomore's personal-best effort of 53 feet, 2.75 inches propelled him to fourth place at the NCAA Championships, earning him first-team All-America status. Fellow Bull Courtney Anderson, the 2013 national runner-up in the women's high jump, repeated as an All-American with an eight-place finish (season-best 6-feet).
The top eight finishers in each event are first-team All-Americans. O'Neal placed ninth in the event at last season's meet.
"It feels great," O'Neal said. "It's really a blessing to come out and compete at this level."
Only five years ago, he was thrust into triple-jump duty out of necessity at a city meet in Jackson, Miss., with no prior knowledge of the event. Three springs later, he set Mississippi's Class 5A state meet record (49 feet). His All-America effort Saturday eclipsed his own outdoor school record by 2.75 inches.
Anderson, a senior from Cape Coral, peaked -- quite literally -- down the season's stretch. Her effort at the NCAA East Preliminary on May 30 (5-11.5) also had been a season-best.
On Saturday, she needed her third and final attempt to reach 5-11 before clearing 6-feet, but failed to match her school record (6-1.25) on her ensuing attempts.
"I've been trying to get (6-feet) all year," Anderson said. "I'm on a roll now and I can't wait for USAs."