CHARLESTON, S.C. – Charleston Southern long jumper Braxton Drummond takes aim at a spot in the Rio 2016 Olympics this weekend at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. A top-three finish in the field of 24 competitors would allow Drummond to become the second athlete in CSU history to earn a spot in the Olympics. Trials are set for Saturday at 1:45 p.m. ET, with finals following Sunday at 4:15 p.m.
Drummond, a 2016 CSU graduate and recently minted Big South Field Athlete of the Year, will be clad in Buccaneer Blue and Gold as he steps onto one of track's biggest stages. NBC will televise action from 2-5 p.m. on Saturday, and an online stream is available Sunday from 1-7 p.m.
All 24 jumpers will jump three times in Saturday's trials, with the top-12 pushing on to Sunday's finals. There, the top three finishers will cement their place in the Games of the XXXI Olympiad. Drummond is seeded 10th in the field, and is focused on bouncing back from a down performance in May's NCAA East Regional.
"It's definitely fun," said Drummond, who arrived in Eugene on Tuesday. "This is my first time for Trials and it's been a long time coming. I'm excited to be there and excited to go up against some of the best people. It's a thrill that I belong up there with them as well. The month off that I had has definitely helped me become better and hopefully I can get in the top-three in the Olympic Trials."
Drummond jumped 7.41 meters at the East Regional, finishing 23rd and outside the top-12 cutoff to qualify for nationals. His 8.10 meter jump at April's Hurricane Alumni Invitational was the second best collegiate mark this year, and is the second best of any collegian in the field.
I know you…
Seeded right behind Drummond is a familiar face in former Buc Lavon Allen. Allen, a 2013 CSU graduate and four-time Big South champion, enters with an 8.05 meter mark which stands 11th best. He highlighted his year of competition with a victory at the famed Penn Relays. The teammates of two years are looking forward to reuniting on the national stage.
"Me and Lavon, we'll probably catch up up there," Drummond said. "It's fun to know somebody that you always practiced with and helped out one another. The best part is me and Lavon get to jump together. It definitely is cool. Sometimes we wish we could have done it at CSU together and had two Bucs at the same time (laughing) but it's fun that we're doing it now."
Allen, whose qualifying distance came locally at the Mt. Pleasant Holy City Relays, has been training at South Carolina State University under former CSU coach Tim Langford.
Embracing the moment
Triple jumper Charlie Simpkins set the standard for Bucs competing on the international stage, having done so twice. Simpkins made a strong debut in the 1988 Olympics with a fifth-place effort, and then blew past it with a silver-medal outing in the 1992 Games.
Drummond is eager for the opportunity to show he belongs and is also thoroughly enjoying the moment.
"Ever since regionals, I've been just practicing and trying to better myself from not having the results I wanted," Drummond said. "I'm just putting my all out there. When I lost at regionals and didn't make it in, it opened my eyes and let me know that I need to work harder to get where I need to be. Every jump counts and I have to put it all out there no matter what."
He also believes prior experience at the University of Oregon's TrackTown USA will be beneficial. Drummond jumped 7.55 meters in June 2014's nationals to take home a fifth place finish and NCAA First Team All-American accolades.
"Going there earlier in my career definitely helps because I know how the crowd is gonna be," Drummond remarked. "There's gonna be a lot of people out there. It's gonna be like a football game with all the people there (laughing).
"Having been there before, I know how to stay focused with the crowd and everything else going on," Drummond continued. "Just have fun and do what you gotta do. Sometimes the wind can be negative and sometimes the wind can be positive so you have to adjust in Oregon and me being there before definitely helps. I'm definitely gonna be ready."