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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Commissioner Thomas presents Coppin State's Epps with MEAC Woman of the Year Award




BALTIMORE – Coppin State’s Christina Epps could relate to the honorable Elijah Cummings’ convocation message about turning dreams into reality Tuesday morning.

Epps knows all about overcoming obstacles, silencing doubters and staying focused. Cummings’ inspirational message hit home for Epps, who did all the above to be selected as the 2014 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Woman of the Year and named one of 10 Division I student-athletes as a finalist for the prestigious award.

Epps was formally presented with the MEAC Woman of the Year Award by conference commissioner Dennis E. Thomas during the annual Fanny Jackson Coppin Convocation in the James Weldon Johnson Auditorium. Epps will take one final bow Saturday night in Indianapolis as part of the NCAA Woman of the Year celebration ceremony in which the winner will be revealed.

“I am elated, filled with joy and honor,” Epps said. “Mr. Cummings really touched me today especially when he talked about turning a negative into a positive. People told me not to attend Coppin at first, but I did and I was able to blossom. Coming to Coppin State was one of the best decisions I ever made. Going back to what he talked about today, ‘pain, passion and purpose.’ I went through some pain and it made my passion for track and field stronger and now I feel like it’s my purpose to go to the 2016 Olympics and inspire others.”

Thomas shared his admiration for all of Epps’ accomplishments and being a tremendous ambassador for the MEAC. He was thrilled that he was able to be part of the convocation that kicked off Fanny Jackson Coppin week, a weeklong celebration that honors the founder of Coppin State University.

“It’s just tremendous, for me personally, to see student-athletes develop during the course of their undergraduate career and excel at the highest levels,” Thomas said. “Christina has embodied and is the epitome of what a student-athlete should be. I know that her family is proud. Her teammates are proud. Obviously, Coppin State is proud as well. I have to commend the work that (Coppin State track and field coach Alecia) Shields-Gadson has done in molding Christina.”

When Epps stepped to the podium, she was overcome with emotion as she shed some tears of joy while thanking Coppin State faculty, administrators and coaches. As she finished her speech, Epps received a hug from Cummings, who is a United States Congressman that represents Maryland’s seventh district.

Among some of the highlights from Cummings’ speech were encouraging students to stay focused, have high expectations and realize that they bring so much to the table. In closing, Cummings tasked students in the audience to find a mentor, realize their talents and feed their soul. He told them to “dream dreams that help other people.” As Epps received her award thanking key faculty members for always challenging her, Cummings commented from the stage that the trajectory of her life had been changed. Epps wept.  

“I didn’t know I was going to have to speak at first,” Epps said. “But I felt like I had to go up and speak and thank Coppin State for everything the school has done for me. At first, everything that I accomplished this year hadn’t fully sunk in until today. I think that’s why all the emotions came out of me.”

The tears were understandable as Epps’ journey was filled with adversity and doubt especially after she tore her anterior cruciate ligament in 2012. Two years later, Epps earned a lifetime of achievements that one could only dream about.

Epps was a four-time All-MEAC student-athlete in track and field and is a six-time triple jump champion in the conference. She is the current Coppin State triple jump record holder. Her school standard is 13.40 meters (43 feet, 11.75 inches), which was established by finishing third overall at the NCAA Division I East Regional Outdoor Preliminary Championships.

Epps was selected as the Coppin State Female Presidents’ Eagle Award Winner, Female Athlete of the Year and MVP in track and field this past season. She served as team captain from 2012-2014 and was the SAAC President from 2013-2014.

She competed at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships at the University of Oregon and the USATF Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, California last month. Epps earned indoor All-American honors after finishing seventh at the NCAA Championships and she finished sixth at the U.S. National Championships.

“I was happy to have Commissioner Thomas here today,” Epps said. “That meant a lot to me and it’s something I won’t forget. I am going to miss the family atmosphere of Coppin State. The school really does a great job of nurturing you as a student and they really care about your development here. I am amazed that I achieved these goals and it feels like I am living a dream today.”

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