HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Jon Stuart has quietly put together a consistently successful Track and Field program in five years at Southern Miss.
However, the Golden Eagles are beginning to make some noise nationally.
USM wrapped up the 2019 Outdoor season with a school-record 24th-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Austin, Texas. Three athletes finished in the top five of their respective events on Friday to earn the Eagles 13 points in the span of about an hour.
"[Jumps coach] John Ellis was running all over the field, trying to watch the triple jump, watch the hurdles, watch the high jump,” Stuart said. “He's been running around like a wild man. The kids were just fantastic. They were excellent competitors, they were prepared, they were ready and they had a good frame of mind all day and really all week. I just can't be more happy for them."
Caleb Parker followed up his school-record 13.50 second sprint in the 110m hurdles on Wednesday with a 13.55 finish in Friday’s final – placing him fifth and earning first-team All-American honors.
Junior Eric Richards set a new personal-best in the high jump with a mark of 7’ 4.25” to finish fifth.
“[Richards] was the one that shocked us,” Stuart said. “We knew he could jump but at the same time, we weren’t expecting him to get fifth. He just really came through. He was money when he needed to be. He’s a tremendous jumper and the great thing is he’s a Mississippi kid. That does my heart good when a kid from the state of Mississippi comes here and they excel and they do well.”
Senior John Warren wrapped up a storied Southern Miss career with a fourth place finish in the triple jump. Warren’s last jump in a USM uniform set the new school record (55’ 0.75”).
“[At first], the referee put up a red flag as a foul,” Stuart said. “Then he switched it. I think he forgot which hand he had the flag in. Our hearts stopped for a second there. When the score came up and the measurement came up on the board, it was just elation with our whole group. I’m really happy for John. You can’t ask for a better storybook ending to a career.”
A transfer from Missouri, Warren set three USM records in just two years in Hattiesburg – indoor triple jump (53’ 7.5”), outdoor triple jump (55’ 0.75”) and long jump (25’ 7.25”). He leaves USM as a four-time All-American and four-time Conference USA champion.
McKinley West’s Golden Eagle career ended on Wednesday after placing 13th in the 100m with a time of 10.09 seconds.
After spending his first two seasons at Barton Community College – the alma mater of World Champion sprinter Tyson Gay – West joined USM in 2018. In just two short seasons, he’s set four school records (indoor 60m, 200m, outdoor 100m and 4x100m), three C-USA meet records, captured eight C-USA gold medals and garnered six All-American honors.
The Golden Eagles bid adieu to 17 seniors – including Danisha Jones, the school-record holder in the indoor shot put (15.82 meters).
“It’s really hard to say goodbye to guys like that,” Stuart said. “But that’s the way college athletics is. Once you get someone to the point where they are the athlete and the person you want them to be, then they graduate, then you have to start all over with a new group. I’m always sad to have a class leave, especially a group like McKinely and John Warren – but we have a great class coming in. And we’re just hoping we’ll find the next McKinely or the next John Warren.