July 1, 2014
By David Dawson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt's Simone Charley is headed back to Track Town, USA.
And this time, she'll know what to expect.
Charley -- a standout triple-jumper for the Commodores -- is traveling to Eugene, Ore., this week to participate in the USATF Junior Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon.
Ranked No. 4 in the nation among juniors (ages 19 and under) and No. 21 overall among US women, Charley will compete at 7:45 p.m. (CT) on Saturday.
The trip marks the second time in the span of less than a month that Charley has visited Eugene. She was there in mid-June for the NCAA Track and Field Championships, where she earned a ninth-place finish and was named Second Team All-American.
Charley hopes that her familiarity with Eugene, which is considered the hub of the track and field world, will be beneficial.
"I feel like it will work to my advantage," said Charley, "because I will know what to expect."
The 2014 USATF Junior Outdoor Championships serve as a qualifier for the IAAF World Junior Championships. The top performers from this week will make the American team and will return to Eugene from July 22-27.
Although the excitement and pageantry surrounding a national event can sometimes be disruptive, Charley is hopeful that last month's experience in Eugene has prepared her for the potential distractions this week.
"I'll understand what's going on this time," she said with a laugh, "and I won't be looking around and exploring the sights."
Charley, who is also a star on the Vanderbilt soccer team, produced a phenominal freshman season for the Commodore track team. She broke the school record in the triple jump in April, and then went on to break her own record three more times before the year ended, including a season's best jump of 43-1 at the NCAA East Preliminary. She capped her year with a mark of 42-7 at the NCAA Championships, the best among all freshmen in the event.
Known for humble nature and seemingly ever-present smile, Charley said she has not set any specific goals for herself at this week's meet. She simply wants to perform to the best of her ability and see where that puts her.
"For me, personally, I don't look at the stats to try to see what other girls are doing," she said, "because when I do that, it gets in my head. I know I can't focus on that."
Charley said she is trying not to put any added pressure on herself this week, although she admits it's difficult to relax.
"I try to see it as just another meet," she said, "but sometimes I can't really make myself believe that."
In other words, Charley is well aware that this is a unique experience, and it's something that not many athletes get to experience. And although she tries to tell herself to stay calm, she knows that competing on the big stage is special.
"At the end of the day, this is nationals," she said with her customary smile.