Area colleges: MTSU sprinters, jumpers hopping the globe

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 7:03pm

A globe would help Dean Hayes.

What better way for the Middle Tennessee State track and field coach in keeping track of his athletes this summer? They will be all over the world.

Three current Blue Raiders and four alumni will compete in international meets this summer, starting on Thursday. Rising junior and Nigerian native Noah Akwu will kick it off by participating in the 200- and 400-meter dashes in the Nigeria/ExxonMobil Athletics Championships.

“It says you have some pretty good athletes on your team,” Hayes said. “But I think the biggest thing I like about it is that it gives these kids a chance to represent their country. It gives them a chance to see what other societies are like and what other countries are like. ... This is kind of their mini-Olympics. That’s the fun part.”

If Akwu, who was named an All-American in indoor track this past winter, places high enough in Nigeria, he could qualify for the IAAF World Championships later this summer in Korea.

Former Blue Raider Stanley Gbagbeke also will compete in Nigeria.

Gbagbeke, a former two-time All-American, competed in the long jump in the 2009 IAAF World Championships. He could also reach the world championships once again.

Over in China, Sarah Nambawa and Rosina Amenbede will partake in the World University Games from Aug. 12-23. Nambawa was a four-time All-American at MTSU, and the Uganda native set her country’s record for the triple jump when she leaped 45-9.25 on her way to the gold in last year’s African Championships. Amenbede, a native of Ghana, will compete in the hurdle events. As a junior last spring, she qualified for the NCAA East Regional.

Both Nambawa and Amenbede are currently in Finland training.

“It is a great opportunity for them,” Hayes said. “I have been on a lot of national trips out of the state and I enjoyed it. I got to meet a lot of people. ... I got to see China in 1989. Think of what it was as compared to 2008 when I want back to the Olympics. There were a few changes, just a few.”

France Makabu, a rising junior from France, is expected to triple jump in the French national championships later this summer. Plus, twins and MTSU grads Carl and Carlos Morgan will represent the Cayman Islands at the Pan-American Games from Oct. 14-30 in Mexico. The pair will compete in relay events, along with the long and triple jumps.

“Some of the international kids that we have, we always hope that they have a good experience and then they go back to their country and it is a more positive attitude toward the United States,” Hayes said. “We need all the friends in the world that we can get.”

• Going pro: Former Trevecca Nazarene pitcher P.J. Francescon signed with the Chicago Cubs and started his pro career.

Francescon, a Nolensville native, was assigned to the Arizona Rookie League. The right-handed pitcher was 6-2 with a 3.28 ERA in 11 starts during his junior campaign this spring for the Trojans. He was taken in the 40th round of the draft two weeks ago.

• Slugger honored: Middle Tennessee State’s Will Skinner was selected to the American Baseball Coaches Association’s All-South Central Region First Team.

The Murfreesboro native was drafted in the 25th round by the Atlanta Braves earlier this month. As a junior, the outfielder led the Sun Belt Conference in home runs (16) and slugging percentage (.655).

• Top award: Lipscomb’s Jenna Bartsokas was recently named the Atlantic Sun Conference’s Female Student-Athlete of the Year. She is the first athlete in school history to capture the honor.

Bartsokas finished her four-year career with the Bisons with 1,411 points for second-most in the school’s NCAA era. The guard is also second in assists (295) and eighth in rebounds (342). Along with her success on the court, the Franklin native had a cumulative GPA of 3.95. The exercise science major recorded a 4.0 in six semesters.

• Open connections: Blue Raider fans had several reasons to watch golf's U.S. Open last weekend.

Rising sophomore Brett Patterson made MTSU history by becoming the first golfer to compete in the event. The McMinnville, Tenn., native did not make the cut after the first two rounds, finishing with a two-day total of 155 — 13 strokes over par.

But walking with eventual champion Rory McIlroy was former MTSU golfer J.P. Fitzgerald. The Irishman served as the caddie for McIlroy, who is also Irish. Fitzgerald played his senior year at MTSU in 1992, after transferring from East Tennessee State.