By BRAD KEITH
(May 21, 2015) — Euphemia Edem is the first female national champion in the history of Tarleton State University.
Edem won the NCAA Division II women’s long jump championship with a school and venue-record leap of 6.56 meters (21 feet, 6.25 inches) Thursday in Allendale, Michigan.
“It’s a dream come true. I was crying because I was so excited. I was shaking, my legs were shaking,” said Edem in a phone interview Thursday afternoon. “I didn’t do this just for myself. I did this for Tarleton.”
The Lone Star Conference indoor and outdoor track and field female athlete of the year was not having her best day through four jumps. She jumped 6.23 meters, 6.27, 6.20 then fouled on her fourth attempt.
Ranked third, Edem broke her own Tarleton record on her fifth attempt, a leap of 6.45 meters, or 21 feet, two inches. Her previous school record was 21-01.05, also the best Division II mark in the nation during the regular season.
But the national finals and the regular season are different monsters, entirely. And a 21-2 didn’t even move Edem out of third place.
Then came the final jump.
Tarleton head coach Pat Ponder recounted the jump for The Flash Today, also in a Thursday phone interview.
“It was a battle, and I kept thinking, not that the other girls didn’t deserve it, but dang it, Eve deserves it,” Ponder began. “She has this patented thing where she pats her left hamstring and twirls her right foot. I don’t know why she does it, but when she did it I said, ‘She’s about to hit a big one,’ and boy did she ever.”
Edem spoke of the way the competition unfolded.
“I had a (6.27 meter jump), then a scratch then a (6.45). Then someone else jumped a (6.45) also, so I told my self I needed a (6.47) to win then ended up jumping a (6.56),” she explained. “I landed, got out of the pit, and my shoulder was hurting. I was like, ‘Shoulder you can hurt as much as you want, I want to know what I jumped.’ Then I heard it was a (6.56) and it just felt great. I’ve been wanting this for so long.”
There were still two more jumpers.
“We were all excited, but at the same time I was kind of nervous afraid one of the last two may get us,” said Ponder. “They jumped really well, but not as well as ‘Eve.’”
Shanice McPherson of New Mexico Highlands was second at 6.52 meters, and Shakinah Brooks of St. Augustine’s third at 6.47 (complete results here).
Edem is also ranked No. 1 in the triple jump, which is set for Saturday. She has a chance to win two national titles in a weekend for a university that has never previously had a single women’s champion.
And the Nigerian star almost wasn’t a TexAnn at all.
“I stayed around and worked in the summer and it proved to be a major blessing. I was just in my office when her dad called,” Ponder said. “They had called a couple other schools in the conference and didn’t get an answer. I knew immediately her name sounded familiar, and her dad told me she was second in the national championships last year. I was at my computer so I looked up the results, and sure enough, I could see she was the real deal.”
The rest is history. Edem transferred to Tarleton from Stillman College in Alabama, where she was the 2013 and 2014 South Region Women’s Track and Field Athlete of the Year and set Southern Intercollegiate Athletics Conference records in the long jump and triple jump.
“I remember telling (assistant coach Justin Hobbs), ‘Don’t screw this up. You’ve got a stud athlete here who can do great things,” said a laughing Ponder. “Of course I was joking with him. He did an amazing job with her. Her talents and his coaching was a good combination, and I couldn’t be more proud of them and what they have made transpire.
“Eve is a special young lady,” Ponder added. “She comes to practice every day with a smile on her face, and if she was ever having a bad day, you would never know it. She’s a true champion.”
A national champion.