From Vanderbilt Athletics –
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Vanderbilt All-American triple jumper Simone Charley doesn’t seem to mind being under pressure. In fact, she seems to welcome those situations. That’s when she’s at her best.
The highly-decorated junior delivered her latest clutch performance on Saturday night by claiming second place in the triple jump at the NCAA Indoor Championships in front of her hometown fans in Birmingham, Ala.
Charley posted a mark of 44-0 (13.41m) to break her own school record and earn First Team All-American honors. It was the best performance by a Commodore since Ryan Tolbert captured a national championship in the 400 hurdles in 1997.
“It was an amazing feeling for me,” said Charley. “Just to see all the hard work pay off — and to see everything come together — was very satisfying and exciting.”
Charley, who also earned First Team All-American honors during the outdoor season last spring, hit her record-breaking mark on her first attempt on Saturday. Georgia star Keturah Orji won the event with a leap of 46-4.
“Simone has been steady all season, and we’re very proud to see her come out and cap it off the way she did tonight,” said head coach Steve Keith. “We’re super excited for her.”
This weekend’s meet was held at the Birmingham CrossPlex, the same venue where Charley competed throughout her high school career at Spain Park High. Charley had a large cast of family and friends in the crowd on Saturday.
“Just walking in the building was a surreal moment,” said Charley. “It felt like the high school state meet all over again. It was great to have so many familiar faces in the crowd.”
Charley put on quite a show for the hometown group, as she opened the night with a leap that surpassed her previous school record of 43.9.75, which she set at last month’s Music City Challenge.
“She came out hot and put the pressure on the rest of the field,” said associate head coach Clark Humphreys. “It was just another great performance on her part.”
Charley finished fourth at last year’s Indoor Championships and earned All-American honors, then earned All-American status again during the outdoor season with a third-place finish at the national meet.
“Some athletes seem to get really tight in a championship setting, while others are able to cut loose and really perform. Simone has proven she is in the latter group,” said Humphreys. “Tonight, she had a little extra pressure in terms of being in front of her hometown fans — but she used that as a motivation, not a distraction.”
The always-humble Charley said Saturday’s success was a team effort and not simply an individual achievement.
“I think back to all the hours that Coach Hump and (strength and conditioning coach) Emil (Iankov) have put in with me this year, and it’s just so nice to see all of that pay off,” said Charley. “It was fun to see it all come together.”
Humphreys said perhaps the most satisfying element of Charley’s showing was seeing her perform at her highest level when it mattered most.
“Going into the season, we felt like 44 was an attainable indoor mark for her,” said Humphreys. “So, to see that come to fruition tonight was just terrific.”