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June 5, 2003

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Several South Carolina track and field athletes talked with as they made their final preparations for the NCAA Track and Field Championships, to be held June 11-14 in Sacramento, Calif.

Head Coach Curtis Frye

All the preparation for the NCAA Championships has occurred. What we’re doing right now is restoration – trying to recover from this past weekend [at the NCAA Regionals] and trying to heal some athletes. We’ve got a lot of sore, beat up people after some hard work at the Regionals. Hopefully we can get our training staff to get them recovered. It’s difficult, but it’s difficult for everybody that ran this past weekend.

We’re going in as a dark horse, not as a favorite. Right now LSU and Texas are the powers of the NCAA on the women’s side. On the men’s side, there’s Arkansas, Auburn, Stanford, and even Florida, after they won our region, they indicated that they will be a team that has a chance. The Southeastern Conference will be very strong at the NCAA Championships. We’ll represent South Carolina strong. We’ve got some kids that can win championships and when you get some wins, you find yourself in the position to get a top five or at least a top 10 finish.

For the men to repeat their best finish in school history it’s a hard thing to do – we’ve got to have a lot of things fall our way. We’ll have to get some points in the 400m dash, points in the 800m run, points in the 4x400m relay, points in the hurdles race and points in the long jump. Our goal is to be in the top five. We expect to get points in all of those areas.

Jonathan Fortenberry

For the team, if everybody goes there and runs what they did to get there, we can come out victorious.

It’s going to be pretty difficult for me, but I’m just going to do whatever I can do to help my team out.

Did wearing your uniform inside-out last year help? I don’t know if that helped, but I’m going to try when I go out to nationals. It might have helped me a little, just to get my mind off of something. It made me think about something else. Other than that, I don’t know.

I’m ready to go. It’s hot. I’m ready for the heat to come so I can unleash my skills. I know it’s going to be hot in California, I just hope it won’t be windy.

Aleen Bailey

I’m excited about going to California for the NCAA Championships, but I don’t exactly want to repeat. I finished second last year in my events and I want to win. It’s kind of stressful, but I’m getting there.

I think we can do better than we did at NCAA Regionals in the 4x100m relay, even though we set a season best time. Everyone is getting back into shape and everybody is in top shape right now, so we should be able to put up a better time.

It gives me a little more motivation knowing that this is my last year of eligibility and I really want to go out with a bang and hopefully help my team win another national championship. Our team is real good. We’ve got a lot of great talent and we should be able to win another team title if we keep our heads straight and work real hard.

Miki Barber

It’s very exciting to be back with the team again [after sitting out last year due to injury]. I’m just going to go out and give it my best effort. This year hasn’t been going as well as I had hoped. I’ve been having injuries throughout the year and I’m trying to get over it and complete a meet, which is something I haven’t done since the Sea Ray Relays. I’m going to give it my best shot, go out focused, and try my hardest.

I everybody is trying very hard to stay focused, stay healthy, and to keep working hard for the NCAA Championships. This is the biggest meet of the year, it’s the most anticipated meet of the year, and we’ve been improving every meet. I think we have a great chance of winning and if everyone goes out and does well, gives 110% effort, we should do well.

For me, I’ve had to do a little more this week since I’ve been out with an injury, but as for everyone else, this week is nothing more than maintaining what we’ve been doing. There’s nothing we can do as far as real preparation this week for the NCAA Championships, it’s just continue what we’ve been doing. As long as we get our rest, eating the right foods and drinking the right liquids and getting some light workouts – nothing hard – then we should be fine.

It’s been kind of hard with the injuries this year. Some days I get a little out of it and then some days I’m ready to take it all on. I run each race like it is my last. I thank God every time I can get on the track and I try to stay positive and stay focused and give it my best. When I do have an injury, I try and get in the training room and get healthy.

My sister [Lisa Barber] will be out in California cheering me on and we’ll both be running at the USATF Championships so I’ll be cheering her on. We’ll both be cheering each other on out there. She’s always been a great source of inspiration for me and it’s always good to have her there.

Otis Harris

I’m excited and it [the NCAA Championships] is like the gold at the end of the rainbow. I’m going to go get that and hopefully I’ll succeed. I think I’m prepared for the NCAAs as far as the mental preparation. There are a couple things different about nationals with the press and there are three rounds that I’ll have to run in. That’s what I have to get prepared for and I think I’m ready.

I’m planning on running a personal record if I can. I’m sure it will take another school record to win out there [in the 400m dash]. I think I’m ready to do it.

I’m planning on running at the USATF Championships, but my focus is on the NCAA Championships. For me, the USATF Championships is a no-pressure meet because I know I’m coming back to college next year.

Tiffany Ross

I think I’m ready to go. I’ve peaked at just the right time this year – not too early and not too late. I only feel like that I can run faster. My goal is to run faster than at Regionals. Last year was a great year and it taught me a lot. I got a lot of experience last year and I was real comfortable. I didn’t feel like there was a lot of pressure on me. This year, with that experience, I can run a comfortable race. We’ve got three rounds so I can relax a bit and run a good race.

There hasn’t been a real difference this year; I’m just peaking at the right time. I’m just ready for this meet. We’ve waited all year for this, we’re defending champions. We’ve got a lot to prove to everybody. We may be missing some people, but that’s just a time for others to step up.

The title of defending champion isn’t really a burden, but it might be a little extra pressure. You have to do what you did last year because those are the expectations everyone has for you. The pressure will be on, but we just can’t think of it as pressure. We just have to compete and come through.

Tony Allmond

I’m prepared and I’m excited. This is my first chance to jump in front of my parents and family in a long time. I really want them to be able to watch and I think that may have been a driving force for me this year. I just need to go out there and not worry about performing but to worry about just executing so I can get that big jump. I need to go out there and have fun and get it done.