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April 23, 2008

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South Carolina’s track and field teams travel to Philadelphia this weekend for the 114th Penn Relays at Franklin Field. Gamecock head coach Curtis Frye is an authority on Penn Relays. Frye estimates he has been to 28 Penn Relays – winning countless Championship of America relay titles in his time at South Carolina and as an assistant at Florida, North Carolina State and North Carolina.

The men are ranked No. 21 nationally this week.

The Gamecocks are the defending champion in four races: three relays and one individual event. In 2007, South Carolina’s women won the 4x400m relay and the 4x200m relay Championship of America events in addition to the Shuttle Hurdle Relay title.

South Carolina brings back the defending champion in the 400m hurdles, Jussi Heikkila, who won in a driving rain last year. He hopes to return to campus on Sunday `as the defending champion again’. He said he didn’t mind the rain last year `I am use to it in Finland.’

This year, during some 33 hours of competition on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, more than 425 races will be run, an average of more than one race every five minutes. This includes more than two dozen distance races which require 10 minutes or more for actual running. The attendance for the Saturday session of the 2007 Penn Relays was 46,363 with the total attendance for the three-day carnival tallied at 109,525 fans. It was the seventh time in the last eight years that attendance has topped 100,000.

Coach Frye on the Gamecocks chances at Penn Relays

“We have young women’s team that is starting to come around and run well. We ran the third-fastest time nationally in the 4x100m relay last weekend. Brandi Cross is also running well now in the 400m and that will help us with the 4x400m relay. At Penn Relays last year we won four of the six relays and I don’t expect we will be that strong this year, but we will work to make the finals of as many Championship of America relays as we can.”

“The atmosphere there is incredible. There were 49,000 fans at Penn Relays on Saturday last year. Those kinds of crowd bring extra adrenalin. It’s a great experience and it’s the start of our championship season. Penn Relays is very valuable to us. What we are doing from here on out, through our training, well our training is in the barn. It is what it is. We have one tune up after exams in North Carolina, but the next three meets are very important (SEC Championship, East Region Championship and NCAA Championship).

“Our men are talented and moving up nationally. Our men could make the 4×1, 4×2 and 4x400m Championship of America events. Jason Richardson’s appearance in the 110m hurdles will help us. He is No. 1 in the country in that race and he is one of many good athletes on this team. I am excited the team perform.”

What do you most look forward to at Penn Relays?

Frye: “The crowds. The enthusiasm. I just love the atmosphere and how the sport is appreciated. Other than the Olympic Games it’s the one place that track and field fans get together and love it. There is no impatience about the time, who is here or anything – it’s all about running and everyone is there to support that.”

Use three words to describe Penn Relays:

Frye: “Exciting, Thrilling, Inclusive.”

Use three words to describe what it feels like to be in the Pen before a race:

Frye: “Chilling, Fearing, Anxious.”

Use three words to describe what it takes to win a Championship of America event:

Frye: “Luck, Talent, Composure.”

Use three words to describe how you feel when you walk into Franklin Field on Saturday with 49,000 fans in the stands:

Frye: “That’s a hard one to answer. If you are expected to win, it’s fear. If you are young, you feel challenged. If you are experienced, you are hopeful. If you are injured, you feel danger and attempt to do things you are just not ready to do.”

Use three words to describe your women’s team right now:

Frye: “Young, Young, Young! Get it?” (he says smiling)

Use three words to describe your men’s team right now:

Frye: “Talented, Unfulfilled, Boisterous.”

Use three words to describe how you feel after a Penn Relays’ weekend:

Frye: “Analytical, Relief, Appreciated – whether South Carolina has success or not.”