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May 28, 2005

New York, N.Y. – After what seems to be a championship trend with a delay due to severe weather, South Carolina women’s team claimed their second championship title this season, winning the NCAA East Regional Championship at Ichan Stadium on Randall’s Island in New York, N.Y. on Saturday. The Gamecocks dominated the competition, totaling 102.25 points, 20.25 points ahead of runner-up Miami, with nine athletes and two relays advancing to the NCAA Championship. The men’s team finished in a strong fourth place ahead of state rival Clemson, with five athletes advancing to the national championship.

“It was a fantastic track meet,” said Head Coach Curtis Frye. “Our athletes did a wonderful job. It was a battle for our men to finish fourth and it was a goal coming into the competition for them to finish ahead of our state rival Clemson, who had a good meet. I’m really proud of them.”

Starting off the final day of competition for the Gamecocks, senior All-American Chelsea Hammond finished tied for eighth in the high jump with a height of 5’7 ¼. However, the women’s relays had a repeat performance of the SEC Championship, setting the tone by starting and ending the final day of competition in true championship fashion.

The foursome of All-Americans freshman Amberly Nesbitt, seniors Alexis Joyce, Erica Whipple and freshman Shalonda Solomon ran a close 4x100m relay early in the competition with Miami, who finished second with a time of 44.17. The Gamecocks, however, were not to be defeated, capturing the lead on the third leg and running away with the win on the anchor leg in 43.68.

Following the 4x100m relay, sophomore All-American Ronnetta Alexander and junior All-American Tiffany Ross-Williams ran a very competitive 100m hurdles that ended with both advancing to the NCAA Championship. Alexander, who ran her best performance of the season, finished second to North Carolina State’s Ebony Foster, with a time of 13.29. Ross-Williams, who was seeded at No.1 in the region going into this weekend’s competition, finished fifth with a time of 13.36.

The Gamecock success kept rolling as the women’s team dominated the dashes. In the 400m dash, sophomore All-American Stephanie Smith ran an outstanding personal best to finish second in the event with a time of 51.54, advancing to nationals. Florida sophomore Tiandra Ponteen ran a meet record-breaking performance of 51.08 to claim first place. USC freshman All-American Natasha Hastings, who was seeded No. 1 in the event, ran 52.86 for seventh place.

The 4x100m relay foursome of Nesbitt, Joyce, Whipple and Solomon also represented the Gamecocks in the 100m final, with three advancing to the NCAA Championship by finishing 2-3-4. Leading the Gamecocks was Whipple who really stepped up her performance in true senior fashion this weekend in New York. Whipple had the second fastest time in the preliminaries and returned Saturday to finish second in the final with a time of 11.44, earning a trip to Sacramento. Solomon, who also ran 11.44, followed in third place, while Joyce ran 11.55 for fourth place. Nesbitt finished seventh for the Gamecocks with a time of 11.63.

However, it wouldn’t be a championship without another great performance by USC hurdlers, who finished second and third in the 400m hurdles, advancing two to the national championships. Leading the Gamecocks with a time of 55.62 for second place was Ross-Williams, who finished fifth in the 110m hurdles earlier in the day. Senior All-American and 2004 Olympian Shevon Stoddart had a season best performance of 55.73 for third place and her final trip to the NCAA Championship.

Solomon and Whipple, who qualified for nationals in the 100m dash, returned later to finish in the top five and automatically qualify for the 200m dash. Solomon finished third with a strong performance of 22.91, while Whipple ran a season best of 23.10. With two events left, the women’s team had a 40-point lead over Miami who was in second place.

After a hour and a half delay due to severe weather, the Gamecocks returned to seal the win a win in the 4x400m relay. Gamecocks Stoddart, junior All-American Tawana Watkins, Hastings and Smith ran an unbelievable performance in the 4x400m relay. Hastings, who received the baton approximately 20 feet behind Miami’s Charlotte Gregg, ran a 51.6 split to catch Greggs and put the Gamecocks in a good position to win the relay. Junior All-American Tawana Watkins maintained the lead and Smith brought it home to win the title with a time of 3:29.19.

“Our women’s team did a great job advancing everyone to nationals that we need to give us a shot for the national title,” Frye said. “The athletes, coaches and staff did a wonderful job. The Gamecocks are the regional champions for the first time.”

USC men’s team, who had an outstanding overall finish in the championship, totaled 55.25 points in only six events.

After an impressive performance by junior Greig Cryer in the long jump on Friday, the men’s team kicked-off competition on Saturday with an outstanding 110m hurdle performance by freshman All-American Jason Richardson. Richardson, who did not qualify in the 400m hurdles on Friday, returned to run the best 110m hurdles performance of the season, finishing second with a time of 13.66.

Senior All-American Rodney Martin and junior Leroy Dixon represented the Gamecocks in the 100m dash final on Saturday. Dixon, who ran another impressive 100m dash performance, earned his first trip to the NCAA Championship with a time of 11.42. Martin, who was not too far behind, had a solid performance time of 10.46 for fourth place.

Also making a huge contribution for the men’s team was junior William Emase. The junior distance runner ran a strong 800m performance for second place and eight points for the men’s team with a time of 1:50.02, qualifying for the first time for the NCAA Championship.

Just like the women, it did not end there for the men’s team. Martin and Dixon returned to run another solid performance in the 200m dash, both advancing to the national championship. Martin finished third in the event with a time of 20.57, while Dixon ran 20.80 for fifth place. Martin and Dixon’s 10-point addition in the 200m totaled 50.25 points for the men’s team, locking them into fourth place where they finished the championship, with 55.25 points, ahead of Clemson who finished fifth. Florida State won the men’s competition with 97 points, while Florida finished with 94.

Results from the NCAA East Regional Championship are available at The Gamecocks will be heading to Sacramento, Calif. on June 8-11, where they will be contending for the national championship.

Note: The regional championship is a scored meet with the top eight places receiving 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 points. The team with the most points wins the championship. However, only the top five finishers in individual events and the top three relays automatically advance to the NCAA Outdoor Championship on June 8-11 in Sacramento, Calif.

The following athletes automatically qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championship:

Men’s Team

Greig Cryer Long Jump

Leroy Dixon 100m, 200m

William Emase 800m

Rodney Martin 100m, 200m

Jason Richardson 110m Hurdles

Women’s Team

Ronnetta Alexander 100mH

Alexis Joyce 100m, 4x100m relay

Chelsea Hammond Long Jump

Natasha Hastings 4x400m relay

Amberly Nesbitt 4x100m relay

Tiffany Ross-Williams 100m Hurdles, 400m Hurdles

Stephanie Smith 400m, 4x400m relay

Shalonda Solomon 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay

Shevon Stoddart 400m Hurdles, 4x400m relay

Cheryl Terrio Pole Vault

Tawana Watkins 4x400m relay

Erica Whipple 100m, 200m, 4x100m