UAlbany’s First Female Olympian

Senior Grace Claxton makes Puerto Rican team for Rio 2016 with school record 55.90 in the 400-meter hurdles. Earns 2nd team All-America in NCAA Championships. Matthew Campbell earns first team with 7 feet, 2 1/4 inch high jump.

Grace Claxton (Photo by Bill Ziskin) 

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 13, 2016) — Grace Claxton had her eye on UAlbany for two years before being formally introduced to Great Danes Track & Field Head Coach Roberto Vives at the 2012 Spring Break Classic in Carolina, Puerto Rico.

Vives remembers the high school senior, who was competing for Club Santurce, “being very excited about our University and reputation.” He had reason for at least a little enthusiasm regarding Claxton, since the meeting was set up by her Club Santurce coaches, Danny Soto and Cynthia Soto, who had previously helped recruit eventual All-American hurdler Xiomara Davila Diaz and other top track athletes to UAlbany. Claxton had also shown excellent promise in the 400-meter run.

What she has produced, however, has exceeded expectations. Converted under Vives’ tutelage into a 400-meter hurdles runner, Claxton clocked a 55.90 in the May 27 NCAA East Preliminary Championships held in Jacksonville, Fla. — a time that not only qualified her for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore., but which won her a spot on the 2016 Puerto Rican Olympic Team. And now, the senior becomes the first UAlbany female athlete to be named an Olympian.

UAlbany High Jumper Matthew Campbell

Matthew Campbell 

Claxton and Campbell Excell in NCAA Championships

In Eugene this past weekend, she was joined by junior Matthew Campbell, a Kingston, Jamaica, native who met Vives and the Great Danes team at the UTECH Classic in Kingston in 2013. Campbell high jumped 7’ and 1.5” in Jacksonville to advance to the championships.

But he bettered even that with a personal best 7 foot, 2 1/4 inch jump in Eugene to finish 7th and earn first team All-America. Campbell's jump among the top 24 collegiate qualifiers in the nation actually tied the third best jump of the competition, but others placed higher because of fewer misses on past jumps.

Claxton made it two top 10 UAlbany finishes with a ninth out of 24 runners in the semifinals of the hurdles, just missing a chance to run in the finals by 0.04 seconds. She not only bested her 11th place seeding, but earned 2nd team All-America.

“Both Grace and Matthew are hard-working, dedicated student-athletes in the classroom and as athletes,” said Vives. “They are the type that do not cut corners and do all that is expected of them. They also have tremendous personalities and are well liked by all.” He noted that Campbell, too, committed to UAlbany after watching the team in action. “At the UTECH Classic, Matthew high jumped against our jumpers, but said he loved our team chemistry. So he contacted me in the Fall of 2013 and was able to join us in Spring 2014.”

For Claxton, her training and sites are now set on Rio 2016, the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, Aug. 5-21. Campbell, meanwhile, will high jump at the upcoming Jamaica trials, looking to hit his event's Olympic standard. In addition, senior Alexander Bowen, who still holds UAlbany's high jump mark at 7-feet, 3 1/4 inches, will compete with the Panama National Team on June 18 in search of an Olympic-qualifying mark.

Previous Great Danes Olympians are Andy Seras and Shawn Sheldon in Greco-Roman wrestling, with both competing for the U.S. in the 1988 games in Seoul and Sheldon repeating at the Barcelona games in 1992, and 1,500-meter runner Roberto Caracciolo, who competed for Equatorial Guinea in the 2004 Athens games.

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