Pair of nationally ranked Tigers brace for SWAC Outdoor Track & Field Championship

Nationally ranked senior Shawn Collins (left) and freshman Sherman Hawkins Jr. (right) are...
Nationally ranked senior Shawn Collins (left) and freshman Sherman Hawkins Jr. (right) are excited for the opportunity to compete for a SWAC gold ribbon(JSU Athletics)
Published: Apr. 28, 2023 at 12:56 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Jackson State men’s track program, featuring two student-athletes ranked in the top 15 nationally in their respective events, is preparing to compete for gold in next week’s Southwestern Athletic Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championship.

Senior sprinter Shawn Collins and freshman jumper Sherman Hawkins Jr. have been among the country’s leaders in the 400-meter dash and high jump. Collins is currently ranked 14th in the 400 meter race while Hawkins is ranked 16th in the high jump.

Just over a month ago, Collins recorded the fastest 400 meter time in the country at the Mississippi State Bulldog Relays, completing the race in an extraordinary 45.60 seconds.

Collins said he almost quit before the track season due to lingering injuries. But with his eyes set on a gold-ribbon finish, Collins looks to recreate his stellar run in the SWAC Championships

“At the time it felt unbelievable, coming off the previous season I just had, dealing with injuries and just mentally not being there for my team as well as myself,” Collins said. “I really wanted to quit, but I’m glad I didn’t because I had my coaches and my teammates to really keep me out here.”

In addition to the SWAC-best 400 race, Collins ranks sixth in the conference in the 100 meter race with a time of 10.39 seconds, is second in the 200 meter race with a season-best 20.83 seconds, and ran the second leg of the 4x100 relay last week at Louisiana Monroe where the Tigers posted a season-best 40.14, the second-fastest time in the SWAC this season.

The No. 16 nationally ranked Hawkins was ranked number two in the nation in the high jump following his 2.16 meters (7 feet and 1 inch) jump at Mississippi State on March 23, an accomplishment that leads the SWAC this season. Along with his league-best event, Hawkins ranks just outside the top 8 in the conference in the long jump with a season-best of 7.21 meters (23 feet and 8 inches).

“It means a lot (to be nationally ranked),” Hawkins said. “It means I’m growing. When I first started the outdoor season, I was 23rd. Going up… it feels good to me. It means I have more room to improve because I have a lot of people in front of me. I gotta keep working hard.”

Collins, a three-time SWAC indoor SWAC Champion (200 champion in 2020 and 2023, 400 champion in 2020) and NCAA Regional qualifier in the 400 meter race, looks to claim SWAC gold next week in Prairie View, Texas for the first time in his JSU career.

“I have a championship mindset, and I want that for my team as well,” Collins said. “We come out and compete every single day (in practice), and I want the best for me and my team…I like the challenge. I like having a little chip on my shoulder, and I always like competition.”

With a target on his bask as well, Hawkins is highly motivated and is relishing the opportunity to secure a place on the podium in his first season as a collegiate athlete.

“Believe in it, and just achieve,” Hawkins said. “My motivation is to become an All-American as a freshman – top 16 [in the nation].”

Both the Jackson State women’s and men’s track and field teams return to action in the SWAC Track and Field Championships May 4-6 in Prairie View, Texas.

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