When they were roommates in the past, Marshall track and field athletes Vanessa Jules and Crystal Walker would talk about their goals - to make the NCAA championship meet in Eugene, Ore. To do it together.
Lofty goals, they were. The Thundering Herd had never sent two participants to that meet in the same year. But Jules and Walker have been all about surpassing expectations this season. Consider this another hurdle cleared.
The senior pair heads to Eugene this week to make program history, marking the first time the Herd's attendance at the NCAA championships wasn't a solo act. Walker will compete in the long jump, with Jules in the heptathlon.
"I remember talking about, while living together, that we were going to make it," Jules said. "We were going to do this. We were going to go to nationals. We're going to make it to the next level and it's going to be me and her. To get the chance to do this together is a great feeling."
Jules and Walker made sure that plan didn't remain just idle words left hanging in an old living room. They put it into action, remaining among each other's biggest supporters during the 2013 outdoor track season.
"We came together and said if we want to get where we want to go, we'll have to push each other," Walker said. "We've been there for each other all year to make sure we get to where we need to."
Where they arrived is at the top of the Conference USA medal platform. Walker won the conference title in the triple jump and finished fourth in the long jump. Her third place in the long jump in the NCAA East Preliminaries guaranteed her trip to Eugene. Her jump of 6.26 meters in the prelims has her seeded 12th entering this weekend. But she's jumped as long as 6.35 meters this season, and Marshall Coach Jeff Small thinks she'll go for broke in Eugene.
"Crystal's going to wow everyone," Small said. "She's really going to jump well. I think the success she's had, she's a person who really, really, really wants it. Now she has an opportunity to go out there and get it. She's not going to let that opportunity go to waste."