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Monday, June 29, 2015

Coppin State’s Epps wins triple jump at USATF national championships



EUGENE, Ore. – Coppin State's Christina Epps, a 2014 graduate, is a national champion.

A confident and consistent Epps treated the overflow crowd to an enthralling performance by soaring a career best 14.09 meters (46 feet, 2.75 inches) to win the triple jump at the USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field Friday night.

“It actually hasn’t sunk in yet,” Epps said. “It feels so unreal. I was going through my victory lap yesterday like I can’t believe this is happening right now. I am extremely humbled and honored.”

Epps is the best triple jumper in the United States of America. How amazing is that?

Epps, who competes for the adidas Garden State Track Club, hit her 46-2 3/4 mark on her first attempt and it stood up as the best performance of the competition. April Sinkler was second in the TJ with a 45-4 1/2.  

“I feel like I am peaking at the perfect time of the season,” Epps said. “I felt great today. I think I held my hop and step extremely well today and that’s what led to my personal best for the year. I also moved off of the board well going into my jumps.”

With her victory, Epps moved one step closer to earning a sacred spot on the 2015 IAAF World Championships team set for August 22-30 in Beijing, China. She needs to clear 14.20 meters in order to officially earn a trip to China. Fortunately for Epps, her performance on Friday earned her another opportunity to reach that destination.

Epps will compete in the 2015 Pan-American games in Toronto next month. The triple jump will be held onTuesday, July 21 at 6:00 p.m. according to the schedule. For Epps, this was the ultimate triumph in an amazing and excellent career.

“I am blessed to have another opportunity to hit the mark I need for world championships,” Epps said. “This will be my first international competition, so I am excited about that.”

Earlier this year, Epps won the triple jump at the Penn Relays and the Morgan State Legacy Meet. She jumped her previous career best of 13.83 meters at the Legacy Meet. Epps credited the energy and enthusiasm of the large crowd for providing the necessary fuel for her best performance of her life.

“The crowd here gives so much support and love to everyone,” Epps said. “Every event here is amazing. The atmosphere is something you can’t beat. When you walk into the stadium, it feels like you’re at the Super Bowl. The weather was hot and it worked out great for a lot of competitors because there were tons of PRs today.”

Epps was named the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Woman of the Year and one of the 30 finalists for the 2014 NCAA Woman of the Year Award. During her star-studded career, Epps was an 12-time All-MEAC student-athlete in track and field and 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).

Epps was selected as the Coppin State Female Presidents' Eagle Award Winner, Female Athlete of the Year and MVP in track and field for the 2013-14 season. She served as team captain from 2012-2014 and was the SAAC President from 2013-2014.

While Epps put in hours of countless work in all types of weather conditions, made sacrifices and pushed her body beyond limits she didn’t think was possible, she knows that the support of plenty of people behind the scenes made this moment possible.

“First and foremost, I would like to thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ,” Epps said. “Without him I would have none of this. My supporting cast has been amazing. My coach (Alecia Shields-Gadson) who pushed me to the next level mainly by being my sport psychologist and getting me to believe in myself like she believed in me has been nothing but a huge blessing. She is a huge part of my success and I wouldn’t trade her for anything in the world. She’s the coach of the year in my book.

“My mom Beverly Epps-Blackwell is a God-fearing woman who always instilled in me to put God first and your blessings will overflow. Her constant support and prayers and support has made this process worthwhile. My weight room and plyo coaches Nick and Toya pushed me everyday even when I complained about my how my body was hurting and I didn’t want to go anymore. They have helped improve my strength and overall explosiveness in ways you wouldn’t believe especially after an ACL tear. I am extremely grateful to have them.

“My boyfriend Emeka Chiazor has always been there for me. Days I cried and felt like giving up, he wouldn’t baby me. The days I needed someone to come out and help me take out the pit or record me or take me to meets, he has always been there. My supporting cast helped make this dream come true.”

Shields-Gadson was happy to witness Epps take her performance to another level.

“We are so proud of the hard work and dedication Christina has put into her craft to become a national champion,” Shields-Gadson said. “We give all glory to God for helping her performance tonight.”

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