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April 3, 2008

The South Carolina track and field teams travels to Auburn University this weekend for the Tiger Classic. Auburn is the site of the SEC Championships next month so the Gamecocks will get a good look at the new track and some heavy competition as well. It is South Carolina’s third outdoor meet of the year as it begins to gear up for the championship season. The women were ranked No. 16 in the preseason.

This weekend South Carolina will compete against Auburn, Alabama, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Iowa, Louisiana-Lafayette, Georgia Tech, Middle Tennessee, Tennessee men, Clemson men, Bucknell men, Army, Tennessee State men, Vanderbilt women and Troy.

Coach Frye talked about the team, the meet and the outdoor season Thursday. “It’s a very high level meet. You have the men’s national champions in Wisconsin a couple years ago, Auburn as the women’s national champions – you have a large mix of folks. Clemson’s sprinters are some of the top in the country. Tennessee contends for the SEC and NCAA titles each year. We will get a chance to compete and see how we measure up. We expect to have an improved outdoor season.”

You are beginning to gear up for the championship season with your work at Auburn this weekend and Tennessee next weekend. After maybe what you would classify a disappointing indoor NCAA Championship, what will you look for outdoors?

Frye: “We had a good outdoor meet three weeks ago and a good meet last week – both times we were favorites. This weekend we aren’t the favorites so we will get a chance to test ourselves. We will compete against a number of individual NCAA champions and All-Americans. We will be able to find out where we are with that level of competition.”

Your women’s team is very young this year. What are a couple things you personally are doing to help them through the growing pains and the adjustment period of college?

Frye: “I am helping them get through the growing pains. We are so young that we are working to develop leadership – leadership for the future. You are what your leadership should be. Teammates spend more time with their teammates than with the team or coaches. In the past we have had good examples on how to win, from the time they are at the Russell House to when you go in at curfew. We can talk about it and institute rules, but the example of their peers – with Amberly Nesbitt, Shalonda Solomon and Natasha Hastings – it’s not the talent we lost with those national champions, but the leadership. We are working really hard to develop leaders – from everyone in academics to Coach Dee, but it’s still all paper, conversations and lectures. Examples of leadership are closer to action for leadership. Liza Todd is the president of SAAC and Faraign Giles being involved in SAAC. Those are good role models for them to see. We need to have more of that. We need some seniors and juniors to step up in performances. Kids want to follow performers more than doing the right thing. If someone is a performer and doing the right thing, it sends a louder message. Life lessons are they learn by examples and that’s important. Sometimes great performers who don’t conduct themselves in a good manner aren’t good leaders or good for your team, but we are working on that.”

On the men’s side, it looks like Jason Richardson is rolling right now. Finally healthy, is that the change for him or did a light go off for him recently?

Frye: “A great deal of Jason’s success is buying into the system. He has always been extremely talented and it’s taken a long time for he and I to get him to be consistent in his work habits. Things come very easy for him in the classroom and in athletics they did as well. He has always been an All-American, but he could have been a national champion or can be – if he works hard. If he doesn’t, then he will be good. He has come to realize he doesn’t just want to be good, he wants to be great. I am very proud of him. Him buying in and making a commitment is a good sign to the rest of our athletes.”

In addition to Jason in the hurdles, freshman Johnny Dutch is also running well doing the hurdles double as well. Does it help for them to train and travel together? They are ecentric – how do you keep them on the same page?

Frye: “It’s difficult because they are a lot alike, but there is four years difference in age. Johnny has some things where he is well ahead of Jason Richardson when he was at his age. His work ethic is well ahead of Jason, but he has to buy into the team concept. He is great as an individual, but has to buy into the team. Day to day, Johnny is growing quicker. The benefit is he is seeing the results of technical changes that Jason is making now and he’s making those changes earlier. Hard work won’t make you successful, but lack of hard work will make you a failure. If you don’t’ work hard, you will fail. He has great work ethics and buying in. Jussi Heikkila might be the bigger model for both of them. It took him one year to buy in, but when he did he got great results. Thomas Hilliard was a good role model for Jussi. Jussi is here doing all the small things and that’s good because he needs to do those things. If Jussi stays healthy he will be in the mix (Coach Frye-speak: he’ll be top 3 in the SEC and All-American).”