June 3, 2010
NCAA Championships Central
By Andrew Gavin
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - A season ago, as a freshman on the UCF track & field team, Sheila Paul (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.) broke the school records in the 100- and 200-meter dash and advanced to the NCAA Regionals in both events. Most would consider that a solid start to a collegiate career.
However, Paul's performance at regionals left a bad taste in her mouth. Admitting now that she had somewhat shut it down after the Conference USA meet, Paul ran her worst times of the season in both events and failed to make a regional final, let alone a trip to outdoor nationals.
"Last year, I felt like I was done after conference," Paul admitted candidly. "So when regionals came around I didn't really want to be there, and my results showed that."
Understanding that she had missed an opportunity, Paul came back stronger and more focused in 2010. The sophomore, who broke her own school record in the 200-meter dash while helping the Knights win the Conference USA Championship, again qualified for the NCAA East Championships in both the 100 and 200.
This time, back in the same stadium in the same events almost exactly a year later, Paul had a different mindset, and with two impressive races earned her first trip to the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships next week in Eugene, Ore. The sophomore will be in the 100-meter dash semifinals Wednesday at 6 p.m. as one of three Knights competing at nationals.
"This year I had more confidence and focus, and I really wanted to be there," Paul said. "I think that helped me perform well and make it to nationals."
In her 100-meter dash preliminary heat last weekend, a race in which she was clocked at 11.86 seconds a season ago, Paul had her best effort as a Knight, flying down the track in a personal-best 11.36. The following day in the East finals, Paul beat Chassity Riggien of Southern Miss, who had beaten Paul in each previous race this season, by .01 to secure a trip to nationals.
"I was really excited because I saw out of the corner of my eye during the race that I was close to a lot of the other [competitors]," Paul said. "When they called my name [as going to nationals], I was just thanking God and really excited that I made it."
Paul will begin her nationals competition Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in the semifinal heats. The top-two finishers from each heat plus the top-two fastest times advancing to Friday's final at 5:32 p.m.
Now just days away from her first trip to nationals, Paul is still learning from her experience as a freshman, and the matured sophomore is determined to take advantage of her opportunity this time around.
"I hope to make it to the finals because I know that if I make it to the finals I have a good chance to be an All-American, and I really want to be an All-American," Paul stated confidently. "If everything plays out the way I want it to and I just run my race, then I will be fine."
For more information about the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, including a full schedule of events and live results, please visit NCAA Championships Central.
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