University of South Alabama junior Sean Collins earned All-American honors for the second straight year after his performance at last week’s NCAA Division I Track & Field Championships. The McGill-Toolen Catholic High School graduate cleared a height of 5.30 meters (17 feet, 4.5 inch) to tie for 11th in the pole vault competition.

Collins qualified for the overall final by finishing tied for second at the East Preliminaries in Tampa, where he cleared 5.35 meters (17-6.5).

During the regular season, Collins claimed his third consecutive Sun Belt Conference outdoor title with a 5.37-meter (17-7.25) effort. His best leap of the campaign was 5.50 meters (18-0.5) at Auburn’s Tiger Track Classic.

The South Alabama Jaguar Opener at Jaguar Track in Mobile, Alabama. Friday, March 2, 2018. (Scott Donaldson Photos)

“Sean has overcome a lot of adversity while managing a very demanding academic schedule, so we’re really proud of his efforts this year,” head coach Paul Brueske said. “I know he wanted to finish higher, but we’re still very proud of him and the season he had. The good thing is he will be back and motivated to be even stronger next year.”

Collins, who wants to become a marine biologist, holds the SBC pole vault record at 5.51 meters (18-1.0), set in 2016. He finished eighth in last year’s NCAA Division I Championship with a 5.45-meter (17-10.50) effort.

Collins exploded onto the scene as a freshman. He established the school, league and SBC Championship standards before suffering a season-ending injury. During the indoor season, he earned First-Team All-American recognition after placing second with a school-record 5.45-meter leap.

At McGill-Toolen, Collins lettered three times in track and twice in swimming. He set state records in the indoor (16-6.5) and outdoor (17-10.5) pole vaults. As a senior, he won the pole vault at the state indoor and outdoor 7A championships while coming in second in the decathlon.

• USA teammate Emilie Berge finished 19th in the heptathlon, which earned her an honorable mention All-American designation. She scored a total of 5,314 points over the two-day event.

The sophomore from Norway picked up 638 points with a 12th place finish in the javelin, with her top throw covering 38.49 meters (126-3.25). She got 663 points in the long jump competition, finishing 19th with a 5.37-meter (17-7.50) mark. Berge ran the 800-meter race in 2:22.05, finishing third in her heat and 12th overall to claim 796 points.

Photo credit: Brad Puckett | Emilie Berge

Berge took first place in the heptathlon with 5,632 points at the SBC championships. The point total broke both the Sun Belt and USA records and tied for 21st on this season’s NCAA Division I performance list.

“Emilie had an outstanding season,” Brueske said. “Coach [Aaron] James, her event coach, and I both think she has a bright future ahead. The experience she gained this week will help her in the future.”

College honors

Collins and Berge are just an example of the many incredible athletes who perform at local colleges. The following is a list of those who received special recognition in track and field. Other sports will be included in future columns.

• Spring Hill senior Mathew Root earned a spot on the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s NCAA Division II South All-Region team. He secured the honors with a school-record javelin toss of 62.47 meters at the Georgia Tech Invitational. Root was on the All-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference team and named SHC’s Senior Athlete of the Year.

• Joining Root on the first-team all-SIAC track squad were senior Korinne Sauvage (javelin) plus sophomores Abigail Cain (3,000-meter steeplechase) and Amelia Bodet (heptathlon). On the second-team were sophomores Spencer Albright (3000-meter steeplechase) and Athina Amanor of Mobile (400-meter dash) along with freshmen Jacob Kirby of Semmes (pole vault) and Kimberly Atkinson (3,000-meter steeplechase).

• USA freshman Hanna-Mai Vaikla was voted SBC Outdoor Track and Field Newcomer of the Year. She won all but one of the five javelin events she entered this season. Her first-place effort of 46.61 meters (152-11.00) at the conference championship ranks fifth all-time at USA. She also competed in the long jump, high jump and 100-meter hurdles.

  The Jaguars’ Michaela Obijiaku won the SBC hammer event with a 60.83 meter (199-6.75) throw and was third in the shot put. Other USA track athletes claiming all-conference honors were Autavia Fluker (shot put), Olivia Swan (400-meter hurdles), Taylor Dames (high jump), Jessica Matthews (javelin throw) and Carolien Millenaar (3,000-meter steeplechase).

• Keldrick Edwards, a freshman from Point Clear, earned All-American honors for the University of Mobile by finishing seventh in the 400-meter dash at the NAIA Championships; his time was 48.27 seconds. Also scoring points at the meet were Billie Shelton (400-meter hurdles), Dante Smith (200-meter dash) and Danlee Eckstein (200-meter and 100-meter dashes). The Rams were also represented in the women’s and men’s 4×100 relay.

• Briana Huff of the University of Mobile was named both the Track Athlete and Track Freshman of the Year by the Southern States Athletic Conference. She earned first-team honors in 400-meter dash and second-team in the 200-meter. Also on the first-team were Azaria Jones (high jump), LaKirstan Hooks (hammer) and Chrislyn Whaley (javelin). The UM women finished second at the SSAC championships.

• The UM men’s track team finished second at the SSAC championships. Keldrick Edwards was named the Track Freshman of the Year. Joining him on the first-team unit were Steven Soles Jr. (400-meter hurdles) and Gavin Pittman (discus and javelin).

• Two USA student-athletes were named to the 2017-18 Google Cloud Academic All-District men and women’s track and field/cross country teams. This is the first recognition for seniors Andrew Allen and Laura Labuschaigne. Allen earned a 3.76 GPA in his undergraduate biology program and currently holds a 4.00 GPA as an Environmental Toxicology graduate student. The McGill-Toolen graduate competed in the hammer and javelin throws. Labuschaigne finished with a 3.93 GPA while earning her degree in May from USA’s accounting program. She set a 1,500-meter outdoor school record at the 2016 War Eagle Invitational, crossing the line in 4:24.50, and has the fourth-fastest 800-meter race time on the Jaguar performance list with a 2:13.15 finish at the 2017 Tiger Track Classic.