June 10, 2014
By David Dawson
While winning multiple state championships in the triple jump during her high school career, Simone Charley participated in plenty of high-intensity meets.
Still, she has never been involved in anything quite this.
This week, the Vanderbilt freshman will compete on her sport's biggest stage: She is headed for Eugene, Ore., for the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, where she will represent the Commodores in the triple jump on Friday.
Vanderbilt head coach Steve Keith referred to Charley's trip as "going to Mecca" and noted that Eugene is "Track Town, U.S.A."
Charley -- who is also a standout soccer player at VU -- qualified for the NCAA Championships during last month's NCAA East Preliminary, where she set a school record with a jump of 43-1 to earn a 10th-place overall finish.
Charley is leaving for Eugene on Wednesday morning, and Vanderbilt fans are welcome to come out for a Commodore-style send-off at 8:30 a.m. at the lobby entrance to the Towers.
Charley said she is excited about the trip to Eugene, and is looking forward to competing against the best in the nation.
"The stakes are higher, so there is some pressure," said Charley, who was a star on the track team at Spain Park (Hoover, Ala.) before coming to Vanderbilt. "But I just want to keep the right mindset of doing my best, because at the end of the day, that's all you can do."
Although she will be a long way from home, Charley will have plenty of supporters who will be rooting for her from various points across the nation. In Nashville, her teammates will be keeping a watchful eye on her performance in Eugene.
"We are so excited for her," said rising sophomore Tierney Price. "From the second she came over from the soccer team (and joined the track team), she has made a big impact for us."
Price said Charley's trip to Eugene is a result of her dedication to getting better every day.
"She is one of the hardest workers on the team," said Price, "and I am so happy for her. She's a great teammate."
Charley's distance at the East Preliminary was the second-best among freshmen in the event, and represented the fourth time this season that she has a set a new school standard.
She first broke the school record with a jump of 41-10.75 at the Sea Ray Relays in Knoxville, Tenn. Her distance surpassed the old mark of 40-06.75 held by Christina Penn Charley, who is married to Simone's cousin, Damien, a former Vanderbilt football player.
Simone then broke her own school record in the triple jump -- twice -- at the SEC Championships. She earned a spot in the finals with a jump of 42-1.75, and followed that up with a jump of 42-8 while earning a fifth-place finish and scoring four points for the Commodores.
She then took things a step further at the NCAA Preliminary while becoming the first Vanderbilt athlete to qualify for the NCAA Championships since since Buky Bamigboye in 2010.
Charley chatted with vucommodores.com on Monday, and her interview is below: