EUGENE, Ore. – La'Derrick Ward earned SIUE's best-ever finish at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championship Thursday with fourth place in the long jump.
Ward, a junior from Alorton, used his second jump of the Championship to eventually secure fourth overall. He leaped 24 feet, 9.75 inches (7.56 meters).
"It was a good meet," said Ward. "It would have been better to win, but I competed hard."
Marquis Dendy, of Florida, turned in the top jump of the event with a 26-3 (8.00m) leap on his final jump, outdistancing runner-up Willie Alexander, of Long Beach State, who jumped 25-4.5 (7.73m).
Ward opened the event with a foul and had just two more jumps to make a qualifying mark for the finals.
"It really was just to get a mark on the board," said Ward. "The wind was just really crazy."
He competed in the first of two flights and had a lengthy wait before learning if he would make the finals.
"I definitely wanted to go further," Ward said. "It was a long layoff going from the first round to the finals I was trying to keep my focus going into the finals."
Dendy matched Ward's best jump of the season as the two finished the collegiate season with the longest leaps of the year. Ward jumped 26-3 at the SIUE Gateway Invite April 19.
It also marked the end of the collegiate season for the SIUE men's team, a season that included Ward leading the nation in the long jump. It also saw the emergence of sprinter Braxton Klavins and freshman Julian Harvey, who qualified for three events at the NCAA West Preliminaries.
"The best thing is that La'Derrick and Braxton will go back to the team and share their experiences," SIUE Interim Head Coach Eileen McAllister said. "Now going to nationals will be something they see as achievable since they are training side by side with someone who has been there."
The outdoor season is not completely over for Ward and Harvey. Ward will venture to the next level at the U.S. Nationals in Sacramento, California, June 29. Harvey will compete July 5-6 in Eugene, Ore., at the U.S. Junior Nationals.
SIUE has one more day of competition left at the national championship. Jatavia Wright, SIUE's hopeful in the women's triple jump, will compete at 5:25 p.m. Friday.