Hampton University’s tumultuous ‘track’ to a title

Hampton University track & field

HAMPTON, Va. - On a blustery Monday at Hampton University, the winds of change have brought wins of change - a victory that's the first of its kind.

"We won 29 titles in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC)," Hampton University Director of Track & Field, Maurice Pierce said. "If we don`t win the first Big South Conference title, they`ll forget all about the MEAC."

But, it's tough to forget about something that's right in front of you. And the Pirates are in front of everyone...again.

Hampton University track & field, Coach Maurice Pierce

After a long, storied run in the MEAC, Hampton moved to the Big South Conference this academic year. New league, same result. Hampton's victories in men's and women's indoor track and field at the conference meet earlier this month are the first team titles for HU as a member of the Big South.

"Now we'll have a ring on our finger to show we won, "Hampton junior hurdler Mallory Pitchford said. "And having the first title up on the board inside our athletic facility, it`s definitely something that`s amazing."

It's even more amazing when you realize the on-track hurdles are not the only ones Hampton is forced to clear this season.

Hampton University indoor track & field wins Big South title (Courtesy: Hampton athletics)

"We've been through a lot of trials and tribulations, but we made it to the top," explained Hampton senior Jerrick Powell - the Most Outstanding Field Performer at the Big South meet.

A scheduling complex with the Boo Williams Sportsplex in the city of Hampton turned this indoor track team into an outdoor squad at times this winter.

"We came out here just one or two days, bundled up, sucked it up - and got it done," said a downplaying Coach Pierce.

Nearly everything changed for the teams on the night of February 2nd.

"I think it impacted us more than we thought it would," Pitchford admitted.

A bus chartered by Hampton University catches fire in North Carolina (Courtesy: Khalil Gary)

A charter bus hired by the University to transport the teams to and from a meet in South Carolina was destroyed by fire on Interstate 95 in North Carolina. Incredibly, nobody was seriously injured in the accident.

The team lost its equipment, uniforms and luggage. However, it gained a new bond.

"It was something to show you that you have to cherish every moment," Powell said. "You can't be upset with one little thing - you have to look at the big picture. I feel like it really brought us much closer together."

Hampton University indoor track & field wins Big South title (Courtesy: Hampton athletics)

"This shows how strong we are together as one unit," Pitchford added. "We can still come together, push and win a championship."

"I tried to be the big, tough guy - and stand around and be tough, but it took a toll on me," Coach Pierce revealed.

Hampton is almost sure to win other Big South titles in other sports. But the Pirates' inaugural league crowns, far from a breeze, will always have a lane in Hampton history - especially on this gusty Monday.

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