ALBANY -- For Albany State's Brittany Carter -- along with hundreds of other track & field athletes -- a trip to the NCAA Division I and II National Championships is on the line Saturday.
That's when a host of men's and women's Division I and II track & field teams will converge on Albany as ASU hosts the 19th annual Alice Coachman Invitational between ASU's complex and and Robert Cross Middle School's track & field facility, and Carter is one of many athletes who are mere seconds away from provisionally qualifying for nationals.
"The Alice Coachman meet is also considered a last-chance meet for several teams and individuals," ASU head coach Ken Taylor said Wednesday during one of the team's final practices. "It is the last chance for Division II teams to quality for the national championships and Division I teams to quality for regionals."
Carter needs to shave three seconds off of her current 800-meter time of 2:15, and she said she couldn't think of a better meet to do it in than the Coachman Invitational, which is held in honor of Albany-native Alice Coachman-Davis, the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal.
"I did research about (Coachman-Davis) for a history project one day, so I know a little bit about her," said Carter, who is from Southeast Bulloch High School. "She was a very good athlete."
Very good, indeed.
Coachman-Davis made history and gained international attention by capturing the 1948 Olympic high jump title with a record-setting mark of 5-feet 6 1/8-inches, giving her worldwide acclaim and the first endorsement among African-American women.
Before the 1948 Olympics in London, she won 10 consecutive national titles in the high jump and national titles in the 50,100 and 4x100 relay on the Tuskegee championship team. Many believe she would have dominated the 1940 and 1944 Summer Games, both those were canceled because of World War II.
"She was a good athlete and a good woman," Taylor said about Coachman-Davis, who earned her bachelor's degree from Albany State (College) after returning from the 1948 games. "She did a whole lot of things for this area in relation to track & field. It's a privilege for me to be associated with an event named after her."
The annual meet is usually held near the beginning of April but was pushed back this year due to scheduling conflicts and track reconditioning. The meet has now attracted runners from across the country who are looking for that final chance to post qualifying times.
Among those competing are Division I teams from Grambling State University, Southern University, Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman College and Division II teams from Morehouse College and Fort Valley State University.
Eight Albany State athletes will enter the meet already provisionally qualified for nationals. They include Kimberly Johnson (100, 4x100 relay), Lanequa Borders (100, 200, 4x100 relay), Andrea Fullmore (long jump, triple jump), Irrion Conaler (4x100 relay), Zakira Greene (4x100 relay), Candace Vaughn (400, 4x100 relay alternate), Ivana Osanyinbi (triple jump) and Jordan Thompson (400 hurdles).
Taylor said in addition to wanting to see Carter qualify, he is looking for the men's 4x100 and the women's 4x400 relay teams to post times that will lock up their bid nationals, which take place in California at the end of the month.
The field events, starting with the hammer throw competition, are slated to start at 8 a.m. at the ASU complex. The track events will start at 11 a.m. at Robert Cross with the long jump events.