On one hand, Jocselyn Powell couldn't have been more thrilled that she finished 21st in the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA Division I outdoor track and field championships on June 8.

After all, the Kennesaw State University junior's goal was to qualify for the meet in Eugene, Oregon.

"That was the cherry on top of the sundae," said Powell, a 2014 Canal Winchester High School graduate. "It was a really, really great year. I am very grateful."

But when Powell began looking ahead to her senior season, her tone changed somewhat.

"I was really disappointed in my performance at nationals," said Powell, whose time there was 1 minute, .97 of a second.

"I treat every year like a steppingstone to something better. I always set something greater for myself to achieve, bigger goals than before. I want to come back stronger and perform at a higher level."

Powell has been knocked down a few times dating to her high-school career, only to respond in a big way.

She missed most of her junior season at Canal Winchester, only to finish that year as Division I state runner-up in the 100 hurdles. Then as a senior, she won state championships in both the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles and set the 60 hurdles indoor state record.

Powell was sixth at state in the 300 hurdles as a freshman, and placed fourth in the 100 hurdles and eighth in the 300 hurdles as a sophomore.

At Kennesaw State, Powell injured both of her hips as a freshman but did not immediately tell her coaches. As a sophomore, she missed two months because of a back injury.

"I'm really stubborn," Powell said. "I wanted to keep running."

Kennesaw State assistant coach Josh Campbell, who works primarily with the hurdlers, considered himself lucky to land Powell.

"She was kind of under the radar in high school," he said. "She is extremely internally motivated. She isn't tall (5-foot-3) and she doesn't look very strong, but she is just extremely talented and has always been blessed naturally with speed and power, just in a smaller stature."

This year, Powell won Atlantic Sun Conference championships in the 100 hurdles (school-record 13.35) and 400 hurdles (59.23) and helped the 1,600 relay to a conference title (3:43.86). In the NCAA East preliminaries that concluded May 27 at Lexington, Kentucky, she finished 11th in the 400 hurdles (58.41) to advance to nationals.

Powell will hope as a senior to match the performance of Owls teammate Jordan Gray, who placed seventh in the heptathlon at nationals June 10 to earn two points and become the program's first athlete to score at the meet.

"I think Jocselyn is as good in the 100 hurdles as in the 400 (hurdles), but we just haven't put it together at the right time in the 100 hurdles," Campbell said. "It's a hard switch (between the two events) because you do the 400 first, then you have to adjust back to the shorter distance of the 100.

"We were both disappointed in Eugene. It wasn't what we were looking for, but now we know what we need to improve on for next year. Our goal is for her to be in the top eight and be a first-team All-American. With a few little changes and improvements, we think that can happen."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave