June 13, 2008
Des Moines, Iowa – South Carolina – be proud of your Gamecock track and field team today for their efforts OFF the field at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Friday.
When South Carolina head track and field coach Curtis Frye went for his morning walk at the NCAA Championships along the Des Moines River this morning (Friday, June 13) in Des Moines, Iowa he made two decisions after looking at the rising river: 1. It was time to evacuate the Embassy Suites, which borders the Des Moines River, set to crest in the next 48 hours; and 2. The Gamecock track and field team was going to do their part by pitching in to help Iowa, especially those in Des Moines who were being directly affected by the flooding. More than half of the state of Iowa has been declared a disaster area due to massive flooding and storms.
As the 4x100m relays departed to practice relay exchanges for the finals later tonight at Drake Stadium, three van fulls of Gamecock track coaches, athletes and staff drove to the local United Way center to be briefed as volunteers and then drove to a major sand-bagging site to fill sandbags for more than two hours. Des Moines’ residents were amazed with the Gamecock teams efforts, applauding their efforts as the crew left by chanting `Game! Cocks! Game! Cocks! Game! Cocks.’
“We have a lot of strong-bodied, healthy athletes here. We teach our kids to give back to the community and we wanted to help out the people of Iowa,” said Frye. “We talked to the captains at our shake-out at 8:15 am and everyone on the team was excited and ready to go in a matter of minutes. We would want Iowa to help us in a disaster so it was an easy decision to lend a hand. I’m so proud of our efforts.”
While at the sandbagging site, the Gamecock crew broke into small groups (working side-by-side with Des Moines residents) to shovel sand into bags, tie the bags and help load them onto dump trucks that left immediately to distribute the sandbags to the Des Moines area. One USC group loaded five trucks full of sand into sandbags.
Assistant coach Lawrence Johnson, an Olympic silver medalist in the pole vault, was the MVP of the team’s efforts. “Coach Johnson is an animal. He can load sand with a shovel and fill his own bags,” said relay runner Keith Hinnant.
“This is a lot of fun, but it’s not easy. I loved played in the sand as a kid,” said shot putter Jason Cook.
“I am glad we came out here. I know they need our help,” said 400m hurdler Johnny Dutch. “I might have a new job as a guy who ties sandbags.” (after spending the morning tying sand bags).
“Coach Frye always talks to us about team unity and helping out the community. We all were anxious to help,” said long jumper Brittney James, a Columbia native.
“It was hard. Filling sand bags isn’t a fun job, but the people there were welcoming and appreciated our help. I am glad we went out there,” said relay member Jamil James.
“I am glad we went. I met some great people and they asked a lot of questions about our team. I think they are Gamecock fans now,” said relay member Aaron Anderson.
The following Gamecocks volunteered at the sandbagging site: assistant coach Lawrence Johnson, Mike Sergent and Dee Quarles, SID Michelle Schmitt and athletic trainer Martha Sheperd. The athletes included Brittney James, Erik Heymann, Jamil James, Keith Hinnant, Johnny Dutch, Ray Miley, Aaron Anderson, Jason Cook and Mike Zajec. Track and field members who are still competing did not go to the site.
FYI: When the crew got back to the hotel after 12:15 pm, it had been announced that the area was being evacuated and the entire team was moved to the Heartland Inn. The flood does not affect Drake Stadium.