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Feb. 26, 2011

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By Miquel Jacobs
Media Relations Assistant

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Matt Shuler
Coach Frye

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.Matt Shuler claimed SEC bronze for the second consecutive year and Jerry Thompson III scored in the men’s heptathlon to lead South Carolina’s men in day two action at the SEC Indoor Championships held at the Randal Tyson Track Center. On the women’s side, seven sprinters and hurdlers advanced to their respective finals with Kierre Beckles taking first in the 60-meter hurdles prelim, Lakya Brookins running her ninth consecutive NCAA auto time and the duo of Shayla Mahan and Gabrielle Glenn advancing in the 60-meter and 200-meter – a Gamecock first since 2007.

Shuler earned his second straight bronze medal in the pole vault at the SEC Indoor Championships after claiming third overall Saturday afternoon with a top clearance of 17’3 ½ (5.27m). Shuler, who tied with teammate Marvin Reitze for third last year at 16’10 ¾ (5.15m), rebounded form a heartbreaking second attempt on his opening height to become one of three vaulters to make it over at 5.27m.

“It feels good,” Shuler said of earning bronze and scoring six points for the team. “It was a good competition and a great meet. It’s what you can expect form the SEC. I feel like I left some bars out there. I have to come back next weekend and jump good at the NCAA Last Chance meet.”

The medal makes it three consecutive years that a Gamecock man has medaled at this meet in the four years of Coach Lawrence Johnson’s tenure. In 2009, Reitze earned bronze, and last season Reitze and Shuler took bronze in addition to Elliott Haynie earning the program’s first pole vault title.

“We would have liked to get eight points out of Matt, but six is where he would rank coming in with his PR versus those guys,” South Carolina head coach Curtis Frye said of Shuler’s jump. “(He) fit in right where he came in the meet. He didn’t disappoint, came through and had a good performance.”

Thompson III scored at the SEC’s for the first time in his career after taking eighth overall in the men’s heptathlon with 4,968 points. Freshman Chris Sharp placed 10th overall in his first collegiate heptathlon. The men completed the final three events today of the 60-meter hurdles, pole vault and 1000-meter run. Thompson maintained his position from yesterday while Sharp jumped up one spot to 10th with 4,609 points.

“Jerry didn’t score last year indoors or outdoors, and now he’s scored for the first time,” Frye said. “That’s a big deal; scoring at SEC’s is a big deal.”

The women’s sprints and hurdles had great days through the preliminary rounds with competition beginning with the 60-meter hurdles. Both Gamecocks – Beckles and Janica Austin – qualified for finals and are favorites to bring home two medals for South Carolina in Sunday’s final. Beckles, a newcomer to the team this season, entered the meet ranked third in the conference and 13th in the nation but exploded with a personal best time of 8.21 to claim first overall. Running in the same heat, Austin hit a personal best as well, racing to a time of 8.31 to take second in the heat and fifth overall while in pursuit of a medal for the second straight year. Austin’s time moves her into the national top 25 and she looks to improve upon her bronze medal finish at last year’s championships.

“We opened the day with a good effort by our two hurdlers,” Frye said. “Kierre Beckles and Janica Austin both had season bests. Those set us up to look for good points out of that event.”

Perhaps one of the earliest surprises of the meet came in the women’s 60-meter dash where the Gamecock quartet of Brookins, Glenn, Mahan and Vashti Bandy faced the unenviable odds of finding a way to advance to the finals despite all being placed in the same heat. Only the top two from each heat automatically advanced, and the next two fastest times out of all three heats would also make it to the finals, meaning the Gamecocks had to not only finish at the top of the heat together, but they also had to run the fastest times of the day.

Defending champion Brookins responded to the challenge in a familiar way by immediately jumping to a lead and once again running her nation-leading 7.18 to claim first overall, marking her ninth consecutive NCAA automatic qualifying time this year as she fights to become the first ever back-to-back 60-meter champion. In addition to Brookins’s race, it became evident the Gamecocks would indeed squeeze three into the finals with Mahan and Glenn also outdistancing the rest of the field with time of 7.31 and 7.34 to earn qualifying spots. While Bandy’s finish of 14th didn’t qualify the freshman for the finals, her time of 7.59 was a season best in a field where six seniors and two juniors finished ahead of the first-year athlete.

“Our seniors are doing a really good job,” Frye said. “Our girls team is a little like our guys were last year. We didn’t have a great girls team last year, but they matured and our seniors are doing what seniors do. Kya is leading the way. We had a heat with all four sprinters (in it). We had a freshman run her personal bets and that was good for Vashti. Shayla was the last one out of the blocks and charged back to run the fourth fastest time here. Gabby was out with Kya, looked up a little bit and still ran 7.34.”

Glenn and Mahan turned around three hours later to both qualify for the 200-meter dash final, becoming the first Gamecock women to qualify for the finals in both events since Shalonda Solomon achieved the feat in 2007. Mahan ran her collegiate indoor personal best at 23.58 to place seventh while Glenn hit a personal best time of 23.73 to take eighth and qualify. Junior Kelsey McCorkle (12th, 24.20) and Bandy (17th, 24.34) also hit PR’s but just missed out on making the finals. On the men’s side, Antonio Sales qualified for the 200-meter final for the third time in four years after taking ninth at 47.52.

“We’re looking tomorrow to get about six points out of that women’s 200-meter, and we’re also looking to get double digits in the women’s hurdles and short sprints,” Frye said. “They’re on the track so they have a chance to score. Antonio Sales made it in the finals as the last guy in. He’s on his way on getting us to the NCAA.”

Louis Day missed out on scoring by one position in the men’s shot put after placing ninth at 53’6 ½ (16.32m), just missing the eighth-place cutoff for points. Andrew Finley took 14th at 50’10 and Michael Zajac was 15th at 50’4 ¾.

“We had some good things happen, but boy it’s tough to get points,” Frye said. “Louis Day is ninth in the shot put. We’re right on the edge of having things happen. Last year in this meet we were seventh on the men’s side, and outdoors we had a big championship, so right now I’m happy for the kids coming back tomorrow. It will be a struggled to get in the top half of this league.”

Competition on the track started early at 10 a.m. as the trio of Stacee Roberts, Breanna Radford and Katie Vuckovich competed in the women’s weight throw final, the first final of the day. Two of the Gamecocks posted personal bests with Radford throwing 54’5 ¼ (16.59m) and Vuckovich throwing 49’7 (15.11m), and Roberts led the Gamecock trio with a 12th place finish at 54’11 ½ (16.75m). Radford followed in 13th overall and Vuckovich placed 16th at the end of competition.

Freshman Kevaughn Griffith was the lone Gamecock man competing in the 60-meter hurdle prelims and ran a collegiate best 8.34 to take 12th overall. It was just Griffith’s second 60-meter hurdle race this season, the other opportunity also coming at the Randal Tyson Track during the Tyson Invitational two weeks ago.

Four Gamecocks competed in the men’s 60-meter dash with Chris Royster (6.91) and Sales (6.92) both finishing in the top 20. Chris Maxwell (21st, 7.01) and Eyong Oma (22nd, 7.18) rounded out the Gamecock efforts. A trio also competed in the men’s long jump with freshman Joshua Jones leading the way with a collegiate best jump of 23’4 ¾ (7.13m) to place 13th. Lincoln Carr took 16th (22’7 ¾) and Jarett Gerald placed 18th at 21’8 ¼ (6.61m).

The 400-meter dash saw a youth movement for Coach Frye’s Gamecocks. On the men’s side, all five runners hit season bests as the team was led by freshman Clayton Gravesande in 12th at 47.52. Aaron Anderson (47.86) and Andre Carter (47.88) placed 15th and 16th, respectively, while freshman Nejmi Burnside won his heat at 49.20 to take 21st overall. Alex Loose rounded out the Gamecock effort with a time of 50.74. For the women, the freshman pair of Sanura Eley-O’Reilly and Amber Allen competed with Eley-O’Reilly (54.72) taking 12th and Allen (55.56) running a season best to take 20th.

“Our 400-meter guys all had season and personal bests,” Frye said, “but in this league, the top five times in the country can come from this meet so you can have your personal bests and not make the finals.”

Senior Laura Pramstaller bested her season best in the mile by 12 seconds to run a new personal best time of 5:10.50, claiming 20th overall in the event. In the women’s 800-meter run, Sierra Henderson and Scola Jepngetich finished back to back with times of 2:15.16 and 2:15.21 to take 15th and 16th, respectively. In the men’s 800-meter run, freshman Drew Ricci bested his previous collegiate best by 10 seconds to take 20th overall at 1:58.89.

The women’s high jumpers each cleared 5’4 ¼ (1.63m) to tie for 15th overall. The three Gamecocks competing were Kayla Blake, Staley Foster and Jeannelle Scheper.

The final events of the day were the men’s and women’s 3,000-meter runs. Robert Razick claimed 15th on the men’s side with a season best time of 8:36.16. In the women’s 3,00-meter, Beatrice Biwott placed 15th at 9:53.61 and Ashley Evens placed 19th at 10:08.31.

“Hopefully we can get in the top three in the mile relay and qualify for nationals in addition to our pole vault women and shot put women scoring,” Frye said of tomorrow’s final day of competition. “It will be a battle, but give us sixth or seventh and that’s outstanding to be in the top half of this conference.”

The final day of competition is slated to begin at 11 a.m. (ET) with the men’s weight throw. Michael Zajac, Louis Day and Chris Campbell will start the action for South Carolina. The first running final will begin at 1:35 p.m. (ET) with the men’s 60-meter hurdles.

W-60m Prelim (Auto: 7.26)
1. Lakya Brookins 7.18q AUTO
4. Shayla Mahan 7.31q SB
7. Gabrielle Glenn 7.34q
14. Vashti Bandy 7.59 SB
W-200m Prelim (Auto: 23.20)
7. Shayla Mahan 23.58q SB
8. Gabrielle Glenn 23.73q PR
12. Kelsey McCorkle 24.20 PR
17. Vashti Bandy 24.34 PR
W-400m Prelim (Auto: 52.60)
12. Sanura Eley-O’Reilly 54.72
20. Amber Allen 55.56 SB
W-800m Prelim (Auto: 2:05.00)
15. Sierra Henderson 2:15.16
16. Scola Jepngetich 2:15.21 SB
W-Mile Run Prelim (Auto: 4:37.00)
20. Laura Pramstaller 5:10.50 PR
W-3000m Run Final (Auto: 9:13.00)
15. Beatrice Biwott 9:53.61
19. Ashley Evens 10:08.31
W-60m Hurdles Prelim (Auto: 8.14)
1. Kierre Beckles 8.21q (8.201) PR
5. Janica Austin 8.31q (8.308) PR
W-High Jump (Auto: 1.85m)
T15. Jeannelle Scheper 1.63m // 5-04.25
T15. Kayla Blake 1.63m // 5-04.25
19. Staley Foster 1.63m // 5-04.25
W-Weight Throw (Auto: 21.00m)
12. Stacee Roberts 16.75m // 54-11.50
13. Breanna Radford 16.59m // 54-05.25 PR
16. Katie Vuckovich 15.11m // 49-07.00 PR
M-60m Prelim (Auto: 6.60)
17. Chris Royster 6.91
19. Antonio Sales 6.92
21. Chris Maxwell 7.01
22. Eyong Oma 7.18
M-200m Prelim (Auto: 20.83)
9. Antonio Sales 21.17q SB
17. Chris Maxwell 21.68 SB
21. Chris Royster 21.85
22. Eyong Oma 22.32 SB
23. Nejmi Burnside 22.52 SB
M-400m Prelim (Auto: 46.15)
12. Clayton Gravesande 47.52 SB
15. Aaron Anderson 47.86 SB
16. Andre Carter 47.88 SB
21. Nejmi Burnside 49.20 SB
28. Alex Loose 50.74 SB
M-800m Prelim (Auto: 1:48.00)
20. Drew Ricci 1:58.89
M-3000m Run Final (Auto: 7:54.50)
15. Robert Razick 8:36.16 SB
M-60m Hurdles Prelim (Auto: 7.70)
12. Kevaughn Griffith 8.34 SB
M-Long Jump (Auto: 7.90m)
13. Joshua Jones 7.13m // 23-04.75 SB
16. Lincoln Carr 6.90m // 22-07.75
18. Jarett Gerald 6.61m // 21-08.25
M-Pole Vault (Auto: 5.50m)
3. Matt Shuler 5.27m // 17-03.50
M-Shot Put (Auto: 19.30m)
9. Louis Day 16.32m // 53-06.50
14. Andrew Finley 15.49m // 50-10.00
15. Michael Zajac 15.36m // 50-04.75
8. Chris Sharp 2:50.68 (758 pts)
12. Jerry Thompson III 3:04.67 (619 pts)
M-60m Hurdles HEPTATHLON (Auto: 7.70)
3. Jerry Thompson III 8.35 (896 pts)
7. Chris Sharp 8.66 (823 pts)
M-Pole Vault HEPTATHLON (Auto: 5.50m)
8. Jerry Thompson III 4.20m // 13-09.25 (673 pts)
12. Chris Sharp 3.20m // 10-06.00 (406 pts)
M-HEPTATHLON Final (Auto: 5675 pts)
8. Jerry Thompson III 4,968 pts
10. Chris Sharp 4,609 pts