University of South Alabama freshman Hanna-Mai Vaikla placed third in the conference season rankings and fifth in the USA all-time standings.

Photo |  Courtesy University of South Alabama

It did not take long for Hanna-Mai Vaikla to shine during her inaugural campaign on the University of South Alabama track and field team. The native of Tallinn, Estonia, walked away from the Sun Belt Conference postseason indoor honors as both Freshman of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.

During her first season competing, Vaikla has already entered the Jaguars’ all-time record books in two categories. She is seventh in the women’s long jump after recording a distance of 5.80 meters (19-00.50 feet) at the SBC Indoor Track and Field Championships. The long jump performance tied her for sixth in the conference standings.

She also accumulated 3,645 points in the women’s pentathlon at the same competition. This placed her third in the conference season rankings and fifth in the USA all-time standings. A 1.58-meter effort in the championships earned her fifth place in the event and 17th in the conference season standings.

“I am very thankful for the opportunity to compete with such elite athletes,” Vaikla told Lagniappe. “I could not have accomplished this without my coaches and teammates.

“I am really thankful for my coach. It has been hard transitioning to a new country but my team has helped me a lot. I am very thankful for South Alabama for giving me the opportunity and cannot wait for the outdoor season and the next three years.”

In the initial outdoor meet of the year, Vaikla set another Jaguar record in the women’s javelin throw. She won the event with a toss of 46.51 meters (152-07.25 feet).

“Obviously we try to recruit quality student-athletes that can excel in the Sun Belt Conference,” Jaguar head coach Paul Brueske told Lagniappe. “A lot of times it takes freshmen a little time to acclimate to the collegiate level. Hanna was able to come in right away and be competitive, which is not easy to do. I think the best is yet to come once she has more time to get in great shape.”

Vaikla was not the only Jaguar to earn conference indoor honors. On the women’s side, junior Michaela Preachuk was voted first-team All-Sun Belt. Senior Megan James, sophomore Michella Obijiaku and freshman Carolien Millenaar were all on the third-team unit with Vaikla.

Junior Ben Rolader, sophomores Luke Fielding and Javen Jackson, and freshman Migael Strydom were named to the men’s All-Sun Belt first team. Seniors Niel Giliomee and Rafael Scott were named to the second team, while freshman Warno Potgieter received third-team honors.

For a complete look at their accomplishments during the indoor season, please visit tinyurl.com/yblsskrg.

Sports briefs

• Local high school track and field teams excelled at the recent Alabama Indoor Championships at the Crossplex in Birmingham. The girls from St. Paul’s Episcopal won their ninth consecutive state title in taking Class 4A-5A. This was the school’s 24th indoor title and the 181st state title overall.

Other high finishers were McGill-Toolen Catholic (girls second in 7A, boys third), Mobile Christian (boys second in 1A-3A, girls sixth), Bayside (girls second in 1A-3A, boys fourth) and UMS-Wright (girls eighth in Class 4A-5A).

In reviewing the state website for results of the meet, (tinyurl.com/y8c8cagl), among those winning states titles from St. Paul’s were Olivia Beard (girls high jump), Callie Radcliff (girls pole vault), Emily Burrowes (girls triple jump) and the girls 4×800 meter relay team; from McGill-Toolen were Jordan McGuire (girls ambulatory 60-meter dash, 400-meter dash, shot put), Bradyn Coarsey (girls pole vault), Hannah Daffin (girls shot put) and Graham Collins (boys 60-meter hurdles, long jump); from Mobile Christian were Ja’Niyah Boykin (girls 400-meter dash), Cameron Alexander (boys triple jump) and Josiah Harry (boys shot put); and from Bayside were Amber Mason (girls long jump, girls shot put) and the boys 4×800 meter relay team.

• South Alabama’s women’s basketball senior center Chyna Ellis and redshirt freshman guard Savannah Jones have been honored with SBC postseason awards. Ellis was selected to the first-team squad and named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. Jones was named the conference’s Freshman of the Year.

Ellis led USA in points (13.8) and rebounds (8.7). She ranks third in program history with 942 rebounds for her career and had 13 games this season with 10 or more rebounds. On the defensive end of the floor, Ellis had 93 blocks to tie the single-season program record she set last season. She broke the conference’s block record by surpassing Denver’s Katelyn Murdoch’s total of 279 on Jan. 18 with a Mitchell Center record and career-high 10 blocks.

Jones is first in made three-pointers for USA with 58, second most by a freshman in program history, and is second in points (12.4).

• Ellis was named the SBC Player of the Week on three occasions. Joining her with that honor was teammate Antoinette Lewis. The freshman forward averaged a double-double in a pair of games against Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana-Lafayette with 19 points and 11 rebounds per contest.

• USA junior Rodrick Sikes was named to the all-SBC men’s basketball second-team list. A native of Ocean Springs, Sikes was the fifth-leading scorer in the conference at 18.7 points per contest. He set a new school record with five 30-point games this season, including a career-best 38 at Louisiana-Monroe, which is tied for eighth in USA history.

Sikes’ current point (579) and 3-point (86) totals rank eighth and sixth, respectively, in a single season at South Alabama, and his scoring average is the best by a Jaguar since 2012-13.

• The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference has named Baylie Doiron of Spring Hill College as its Softball Pitcher of the Week. Doiron (1-2) pitched a complete game to shut out Blue Mountain College 1-0. She allowed just four hits with a walk while recording nine strikeouts. It was her second complete game of the week and she held a 1.71 earned run average during the slate, throwing 11 strikeouts in 16.1 innings pitched.