BALTIMORE – Under a searing sun that roasted everybody outside like a piece of rotisserie chicken during a recent morning, Coppin State senior Christina Epps meticulously laid down 20 brown bread crates on the green turf spaced seven steps apart.
There was nothing unusual about this unless you consider that Epps started the process about 35 minutes before her scheduled 10:00 a.m. workout in preparation for this weekend’s NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships at the University of Oregon. By the time, Coppin State head women’s track and field coach Alecia Shields-Gadson arrived outside; Epps had already worked up a good sweat.
The perspiration was pouring from Epps’ face even before she went through an arduous session of bounding over the crates 10 times. On the surface, looking at the crates spaced out doesn’t seem that difficult at all, but by the time Epps finished her third session over them, she was exhausted and looked like she just went 10 rounds with Floyd Mayweather without any lumps to her face.
Though Epps wanted a break, she continued her grueling workout despite the scorching morning heat. The workout is designed to assist with Epps’ rhythm on the runway before she takes off in the air like a Southwest 747 jet.
“It’s a love-hate relationship with this workout,” Epps said with a smile. “I love crates and I love bounding, it’s just when you reach a certain threshold, you have to keep pushing through because it’s a lot of pounding on your legs and its very tiring because of the amount of crates we do.”
Epps’ determination and will to succeed is one reason why she enters Friday’s triple jump championship as one of the favorites to win the event. She is ranked fourth out of 24 competitors, who qualified for the final NCAA meet of the season. She leaped a career best 13.40 meters (43 feet, 11.75 inches) in finishing third last weekend at the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Preliminary Championships at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida.
Epps is humbled and blessed, but she expects to win the triple jump that begins at 6:20 p.m. Eastern Time. The NCAA hasn’t announced viewing plans as of press time.
“I am going into this meet confident and focused,” Epps said. “I am putting my faith in God and his timing and everything will happen when it needs to happen. I am going to do my best and perform to the best of my abilities. I know there are some bigger jumps in there and I am excited to see what happens.”
If Epps finishes among the top eight, she will become the first Coppin State female since Diana Pitts in the 800-meter run in 1994 to score a point at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. That information was provided by Tom Lewis, who is the Director of Communications for the United States Track & Field Cross-Country Coaches’ Association.
Epps admitted that she was a handful when she arrived to Coppin State as a freshman. She said she was hard-headed and stubborn, but thanks to Shields-Gadson’s guidance, motivation, tough love, and support, Epps has matured into a wonderful young lady with a limitless future. Getting to this point for her has required plenty of discipline, focus, faith and conquering adversity while successfully recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that robbed her of most of her 2013 season.
Epps is delivering one clutch effort after another. Each of her last two meets against elite triple jumpers, Epps has continued to put the school record out of sight. One of the biggest differences in Epps’ performance’s this year has been that she finally arrived at the intersection of confidence and ability. Now that they have merged, Epps has exploded like a Fourth of July fireworks show.
“She’s ready to do what we’ve always known what she was capable of doing,” Shields-Gadson said. “It couldn’t have happened to a better person. Christina is an example of hard work. Yes, she’s talented, but when you look across the country and some of the competition that’s she’s competed against. There were young ladies who were coming out of high school jumping well over 40 and 41 feet. This has been a true grind of Christina putting in the work, the dedication and making the sacrifices needed to be successful. She’s a poster child for that kind of attitude.”
Epps will take advantage of her first visit to Oregon by visiting Niketown. The week will start off slow for her as she eases into competition shape. However, by the time Friday arrives, Epps will be ready to roll. Her thoughts will drift back to all those moments in the weight room and being thankful that she never cheated a workout no matter how drained she was.
Epps is proof that it doesn’t matter which school you attend because now she is a must-see attraction. Competitors from schools in the major Division I conferences are stopping what they’re doing and watching her perform. Furthermore, they are going up to her asking Epps for pointers on triple-jumping or offering congratulations. Epps is thankful for all the support that she’s received from family, friends, the Coppin community and others. She appreciates the opportunity to represent Coppin State this weekend.
“I am proud and to have Coppin State on my shirt whenever I compete,” Epps said. “I am honored to be one of the Coppin State females here at the national championships in a long time. God led me here for a reason.”