Nickolette Dunbar didn’t have much time to rest after the high school track and field season ended. Dunbar, the Penn Relays and NCAA Meet of Champions shot put winner, competed at New Balance Nationals — then stepped her level up even farther at USA Track & Field’s World Youth Trials in Lisle, Ill.
A few days earlier, a pair of Morris County alumni —Christina Epps of Morristown and Mount Olive graduate Keturah Orji — finished first and third in the triple jump at USATF Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore. They both earned berths on the American team for the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in late August.
Epps jumped a personal-best 46-23/4 on her first attempt of the competition, to “take a lot of pressure off yourself, and everything becomes fun after that.” However, none of the top three finishers — Epps, April Sinkler of Utah-based National Athletic Institute, and Orji — has met the World Championships qualifying standard of 14.20 meters. Orji’s NCAA-winning leap of 46-51/4 set a new school and American junior record — but is five centimeters short of the required mark. Epps’ mark from the national meet converts to 14.09 meters.
Athletes have until Aug. 9 to meet the standard.
Epps is scheduled to compete at the USATF National Club Championships at Icahn Stadium in New York City on Saturday. She is also part of the American delegation to the Pan American Games in Toronto, which begin on Friday. The Pan Am women’s triple jump is scheduled for July 21. Epps has also qualified for the triple jump at the NACAC Championships on Aug. 7 in Costa Rica.
“It’s great, don’t get me wrong. I’m excited. I love it. But it doesn’t feel any different,” said Epps, who trains at her alma mater, Coppin State, and competes for Garden State Track Club.
“I’ve got to go back to work. I haven’t accomplished everything I need. … Both myself and Keturah are bringing life to the (triple jump) in the United States. For all of us to jump 14 meters this year is great for the event. They’re going to have to highlight triple jump even more.”
Dunbar, a rising senior at Whippany Park, finished second in the shot put at the World Youth Trials, open to athletes aged 16 and 17, to earn a trip to the international meet in Cali, Colombia. She fouled her first two preliminary throws, and then her first two throws in the final round before “I put one out there” to move up from fifth.
At the USA Youth Outdoor Championships, which was held simultaneously, Dunbar won the 17-18 shot put and also placed fourth in the hammer and seventh in discus.
The young Americans received their uniforms and other USA-logo gear on Sunday, practiced together for the first time on Monday, and is scheduled to depart for Colombia on Thursday.
World Youth shot put qualification will be held in the morning of July 16, with the final round that evening.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Dunbar said. “I’m going to try to approach it the same way, and make sure I do everything I usually do. … Since this is all new to me, I want to see how it feels. I just hope everything good comes out of it.”