May 27, 2015
JACKSONVILLE, FLA. – The South Carolina track and field team enters competition at the NCAA East Regionals this weekend, fresh off a performance at the SEC Championships that earned many of the athletes their qualifying times and marks. The Gamecocks will send 13 individuals and two relay teams on the men’s side, and nine individuals and two relay teams for the women.
Regionals will be held May 28-30 in Jacksonville, Fla., hosted by the University of North Florida. In all, the Gamecocks are scheduled to compete in 20 events for a chance to make it to the NCAA Championships in Eugene.
Date: Thursday, May 28 – Sat., May 30
Start Time: Thu. – 12:00 p.m. ET | Fri. – 12:00 p.m. ET | Sat. – 1:30 p.m. ET
Location: University of North Florida, Jacksonville, Fla.
Facility: Hodges Stadium
Live Results: Live Results
The men’s side has athletes ranked in the top ten in five different events, led by Dondre Echols in the 110m hurdles, owner of the top-ranked time in the region. Jermaine Collier (No. 15) and Isaiah Moore (No. 17) will also run for a shot at nationals in the event, and Jussi Kanervo (No. 8) will run in the 400m hurdles race.
Michael Wamer is ranked second in the triple jump thanks to his program-record mark from earlier in the Spring, and the men’s 4×1 and 4×4 relay teams are coming off season best times at the SEC Championships and are ranked sixth and third, respectively. Finally, in keeping with the strong outdoor season from the throws team, Carolina will send an athlete in each discipline; the shot put and discus (Josh Awotunde, the hammer (Clarence Gallop), and the javelin (Kaleb Zuidema).
The women’s team is led by high jumper Jeannelle Scheper, who is fresh off a gold medal at the conference meet thanks to a world-leading mark of six feet, five inches that earned her the top seed for regionals. Nakita Gray, who is currently 13th in the region, joins her to represent another potential national qualifier. Triple jumper Natasha Dicks rocketed up to 9th the regional rankings after a new personal best at SECs, and with another solid performance she may too make nationals.
Others ranked in the top 25 regionally for the women include Alexis Murphy in the long jump and the 4×1 and 4×4 relay teams.
In the last weekend of competition, at SECs, three individual medalists and one relay medal were the highlights of the weekend in Starkville, as were the all-time top 10 marks achieved by 12 different student-athletes.
On day one, the throws team scored early for the men, with Clarence Gallop (5th, hammer) and Kaleb Zuidema (7th, javelin) posting season-best marks in their respective events. Ashley Miller, Hannah Giangaspro and Kevin Keating also set new personal records in the prelims of the 800.
The medals would roll in on day two, starting with Markus Leemet in the decathlon. After setting himself up for success through the five Thursday events, he closed strong to place third overall with the third-highest point total in program history (7,372). With that performance, he qualified 18th overall for the NCAA Championships in June.
The team’s lone gold medal of the weekend would come Jeannelle Scheper, and as has been the case for the last few years, she squared off with Georgia’s Leontia Kallenou in the finals. After the third-place competitor dropped out at 1.80 meters, the two traded perfect jumps all the way up to 1.96 (six feet, five inches). Kallenou missed her first attempt of the day, giving Scheper a chance to apply pressure. Despite entering the day with a lifetime best of 1.95 meters that was set earlier in the Spring, Scheper cleared 1.96 on her first try. After Kallenou missed on her final two tries, Scheper secured her first outdoor gold medal.
The team would also score in the women’s long jump and men’s shot put on the back’s of new personal bests. Alexis Murphy added almost five full inches to her previous best to finish eighth in the long jump, and moved up to fifth all-time in the event. Josh Awotunde put another inch and a quarter on to his personal best, and finished fifth in the field with a mark of 60-11.25.
Saturday was highlighted by the relays, with the Gamecocks setting a new season-best time in both the men’s and women’s 4×1 and 4×4 events. The men’s 4×4 team shaved more than four seconds off the previous season best to win bronze, running a time of 3:03.13 that ranks fourth in school history. The two women’s relays would show significant improvements off the season-best times to place seventh and eighth in the 4×4 and 4×1 relays, respectively.
In the individual events on Saturday, The women’s team saw an early surprise result from sophomore Natasha Dicks, who posted a fifth-place finish in the triple jump. She entered the weekend ranked 15th in the conference, but shattered her personal best to score for the team. After fouling her first two attempts, Dicks soared for a mark of 43-2.25 to move all the way up to third and qualified for the finals. That mark would hold for fifth. She moves up the program’s all-time rankings from sixth to third, and posted the best triple jump for Carolina since 2005.
The men’s team scored big in its lone individual track event of the day, placing three in the top eight of the men’s 110 hurdles. Leading the way was Dondre Echols in second place with a time of 13.46. It was the best finish for Carolina since 2010 (Booker Nunley) and now is the fifth-fastest time in school history, passing Kenneth Ferguson (13.53, 2003). Currently, his time ranks second in the nation and is redemption for the junior after he missed the finals of the 60 hurdles indoors.
Jermaine Collier ran 13.73, a season-best time to place seventh overall. His time ranks 12th nationally. Isaiah Moore would round out the scorers with an eighth-place finish, his time of 13.76 is the tenth-fastest in school history and ranks 13th nationally.