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Aug. 30, 2015

Coach Dee’s Daily Diary
Carolina assistant head coach Delethea Quarles is overseas serving as the head coach for the United States women’s national team at the IAAF World Championships. The event runs from Aug. 22-30, and each day Coach Dee will share her thoughts about coaching at track’s highest level.

This process of working for Team USA has gone back all the way to the winter when you first found out about your position. What will be your lasting memory of this meet?
I know it’s said all the time, but the national anthem takes on an even deeper meaning for me now, because every time we were on the stand and our flag was raised because we were a medalist, that takes on a different and deeper meaning. I’m sure every time I hear the anthem now, I’ll be reminded of this amazing experience and the athletes and people I was able to work with. As I said in the team meeting before we even got started, to experience excellence on this level is such an extraordinary feeling.

A reporter in Columbia wrote when we won the national championship that we were the `first ladies of track and field’, and one of my staff members here said that I was now a first lady of USA track and field. When you’re representing your country it is a tremendous thing, it’s very difficult, the expectations are extremely high and the pressure is high. It’s one experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

We had a total of 18 medals for the U.S. and in the actual scoring of the meet we faired very well. I told Jeannelle last night that being seventh in the world was an incredible feat for her, especially being so young in age compared to her competitors. She’s 20 years old, and her agent asked me if this was her first championships and I said no, she’s been in the World Championships at age 16 and 18 as well. I’m very proud of her, Natasha, Johnny, Shevon, and Kierre, they all made me proud.

Now that the meet is over, what’s next for you over the coming days?
It’s already midnight here, so there’s just enough time to get something to eat and finish packing. Tomorrow is complete travel, I don’t leave here until 4 p.m. for my flight and I’ll leave four hours prior to that. The flight will be a good 13 hours of travel on the plane, so I’m sure that there will be a lot of sleeping on that plane.

All of us on the staff have been high energy and operating off adrenaline, so I’m sure everybody on the plane will be decompressing from the last 23 days. I can’t wait to be back on American soil and get back to the things I’m comfortable with, the food I’m used to, and getting back to the Gamecock nation and let them love on me.

How do you feel that this experience has helped you as a coach, now that you return home to help guide the Gamecocks?
To experience the highest level of track and field can only make you better. It’s not just an experience that impacts you for the moment, it’s something that lasts a lifetime. I will never be the same because of this opportunity, I like to think that I will be better at every aspect of what I do in my life, my career and with my family because of this experience.

As I look back now going into the last day of the meet tomorrow, it has been such an incredible experience to see the world compete and to know that I serve a country that has the world’s best team. It makes these 22 days more special than I could ever had thought. I’m sure when I get home and really reflect on this trip I’ll appreciate it even more. Not many people get to experience this, and my sport has been very good to me and offered me opportunities that I may never have had. I’m kind of in awe over my time here.

Jeannelle finished up the high jump finals today, how do you rate her performance?
She’s seventh in the world! I’m happy about it and proud of her. I didn’t realize she was as nervous as she was until after but she did a good job. After a long collegiate season she collected herself and did what she did, I’m pleased with that. She was really ready to jump higher, but the anticipation and the nerves of it all made her very anxious and she rushed through some things over the top of the bar that took away from her jumping higher. Afterwards I talked to her and she was happy with her performance, but not satisfied. The good thing is, she’s ready to go and fit to do it. This is a great stage to finish preparing her for Rio.

Ashton Eaton put up a new world record in the decathlon, breaking his own record by six points. As a former multi-event athlete yourself, how special was that to see?
That is unbelievable, for someone to achieve all those great marks over ten events, the only other word I can come up with to describe it is AMAZING! I have never seen any decathlete compile so much excellence into one competition, that is so difficult to do. He’s has made our country proud. I’ll go to war with him any day, with someone like him on your front line, you’ll never lose a battle.

There was more excitement on the track with the 4×1 and 4×4 relays, with Jamaica sweeping the 4×1 finals today. What does the long-standing rivalry between Jamaica and the US do to help the sport?
I think both countries have proven over the years to have some of the best sprinters in the world, so this is just another stage that these two countries can compete head to head. There’s a lot of history there, and while there are many other great sprinters across the world, these two always seem to be battling it out. We didn’t leave with the bragging rights tonight, but hopefully everything else that happened in the meet will have us leave here ready for Rio.

With just one day remaining in the meet, what are you looking forward to in the final day?
This has been a great 22 days, and we just have this one day to finalize our business here. The finale is the 4×4, everybody remembers the 4×4 in any track meet. We have a few others on the team that go tomorrow but we finish up with the 4×4. We hope to keep adding to our medal count, as of today it’s the highest of any country with 16.

The whole meet today was exciting, as we go into the final days here there’s an increased anticipation. I think as of yesterday Kenya was still ahead of us in the medal count, but we’re staying the course and trying to do what we do and hopefully we’ll end up on top. I was able to spend time with Chris today and while they were playing our national anthem they put us up on the big screen so that was a lot of fun.

Kierre ran well again in her semifinal, breaking 13 seconds. I think this meet puts her in another place and allows her to move forward. Hopefully tomorrow Jeannelle can get up on the podium, we all know she’s capable of it.

The jump team keeps coming through for Team USA, a gold today for Tianna Bartoletta in the women’s high jump
That was clutch, it was her third jump in the final round. She was in third place for most of the night, but she popped that one off at the last jump. It was awesome, we’re all very proud of her. In spite of things that people may see as disappointments, people are still coming through for us. After the long jump I was pumped up because I had a front-row seat and I had the honor of giving Tianna the American flag after she won and I shared a fist bump and a hug with her coach.

Tomorrow is the first day for the highly-anticipated relays, talk about the selection process as a coach
We have a relay coach that has been working with our athletes throughout the year, they have been running at different times at different camps to get a feel for the best chemistry. They start out early in the year and ask some of our sprinters if they desire to be in the relay pool, then there are some requirements that they have to attend certain meets and attend the official relay camp. Our relay coach is Dennis Mitchell, and he will work with them and determine who is running and what the lineup will be. I’ll talk to him in the morning and see who our best four legs will be for the preliminary round.

The relays seems to be a great opportunity for some of the elite sprinters who are looking for some redemption after their individual events
You always have that, it’s always another opportunity to put your all out there, and especially when things haven’t gone the way you planned. The relays always bring high energy and expectations, and I feel like both our 4×1 and 4×4 teams are ready to go. We have some great legs in the pool, but the relays are always tough so it will be a battle.

There was a great competition today that was near to your heart as a jumps coach, what’s your take on Christian Taylor’s triple jump gold?
Watching him tonight, it looked like a few jumpers took a while to get things going and I saw him fighting to get to the place where he’s normally in when he jumps. He and I have had several conversations leading up to the championships and I was honored to be interviewed along with him at the beginning of the championships, so it was cool to connect and bond with him and then see him do such an incredible job. To pull off that last jump at the end (18.21 meters, nine centimeters away from a world record), that was him being in the zone and we are proud of him being able to bring home the gold. A job well done!

On the women’s side we had the start of the women’s high jump. How did you feel Jeannelle did in her first day of competition?
The name of the game is to advance, and she did that. It definitely put a smile on my face, because I know she’s well-prepared and very able. I’m glad it came together for her today. I’m very happy she was able to make the adjustments she needed to, she’s jumping well right now. Mentally she’s in a better place, the earlier part of the summer was a challenge for her. Competing on the circuit at that next level was challenging, but she came home and hit a reset button. Being home got her balanced and going in the direction she needs to go. I’d call the early part of this summer growing pains, and even though she’s not done growing today was a big step for her.

The other Gamecock in action today was Kierre Beckles, who set a new record for Barbados in the 100-meter hurdles at 12.88. She seemed to be locked in as well.
Kierre looked incredible! She’s been battling to break that 13-second mark, so it has been a long-time coming for her. She did an incredible job, and I texted both her and Jeannelle after and told them great job and keep doing what you’re doing. She needs to keep her focus now and try and make the finals tomorrow. Besides being physically prepared, I think it’s a mental mindset to stay focused. When you come here, every round is like a final. Kierre is going to have to come into the semifinals with the determination to make the finals, because the women’s hurdle is a very fast race. Hopefully she’s not satisfied with what she did, I hope she will use it as a confidence-builder.

Jump events continue tomorrow with the women’s long jump final, right now USA’s Tianna Bartoletta is the only woman in the field that has passed seven meters. How will she and fellow American Janay Deloach Soukup fair in a tight field?
Tianna is an incredible jumper, and one of the things that makes her a great jumper is that she’s an outstanding sprinter. At South Carolina we are a jump, sprint, velocity type of program and Tianna has all of that. For a while she was only sprinting but she came back to the jumps and I expect her to do even better than what she did in the first round. Janay has always proven to advance to the finals and find a way to make things happen. They both have very good chances to be on that podium.

What else stood out to you on day five of the championships?
I really enjoyed watching Allyson Felix run the 400. Running 49 seconds for a woman, that list isn’t real long. I was glad to see after seeing her in Daegu (Korea, the site of the 2011 World meet) that it didn’t fair very well for her, but today I saw her in the very best of health and she executed very well. It was a great race. That 49-second list isn’t long, but I do know that Natasha Hastings is on it too and I know first-hand seeing the work and craft that went into making that happen with Coach Frye and Natasha. To see that tonight with Allyson was an incredible experience and of course, the gold always looks good on us!

Today was good, we won two medals in one event (400-meter hurdles). Miss (Shamier) Little is another one of our first-timers that did an excellent job today. The women’s vault was extremely competitive, of course we were disappointed we weren’t on the medal stand. Jenn (Suhr) didn’t seem quite herself going into the competition, and Sandi (Morris) was going for a new best, it was a good competition for her.

It Seems like today especially the SEC was well-represented, between Sandi, Shamier and Omar McLeod. To see them at SECs and then see them fighting for a spot on the medal stand at Worlds says a lot about this conference
It really does. Just this past SEC meet when we were at Mississippi State with Coach Floréal (from Kentucky, now coach the men’s national team), I felt like it was just the SEC leading the world. Sometimes it’s a little unbelievable for people to believe the impact that the SEC has, but it really does lead the world. It’s an incredible opportunity to be at a place like South Carolina and be on that stage.

It just goes to show you that being a place like Carolina will prepare you to be with the best. We have five alumni athletes here competing at this meet and in the past we’ve had even more than that. It’s something we’re very proud of, and it’s something that’s factual. We give our athletes the best on both ends, the best academics and the best athletics, and we don’t have to make an excuse to not be the best at either and not many universities can say that.

Sometimes it’s a little unbelievable for people to believe the impact that the SEC has, but it really does lead the world. It’s an incredible opportunity to be at a place like South Carolina and be on that stage. It just goes to show you that being a place like Carolina will prepare you to be with the best.

Coach Quarles

You seemed disappointed with the team’s performance yesterday, how did you feel they responded today?
Track is unique where you have individuals who are committed to their events, but there is always a team effort, especially at a meet like this. It’s about the women’s team, it’s about the men’s team and about us being one team representing USA. The women, regardless of what didn’t turn out yesterday, relied on their passion today to benefit the team. People have that drive and integrity to excel at what they’re doing, and the team benefits. A lot of people have given us their best and that’s all we ask for.

Jeannelle Scheper and Kierre Beckles are getting set to start competition tomorrow. How do you like their chances as an “opposing” coach?
I wouldn’t say I’m an opposing coach because they’re family and they’re Gamecocks. We’re all here to represent our country, and I expect them to go out and compete with the passion that all Gamecocks have and I think they’ll be able to advance to the next rounds.

It was a shorter day so we had the morning off. We’re looking forward to tomorrow, today wasn’t all of what we wanted to happen on the track. Some expectations we had for people making it back did not happen, but I think the stronger part of our meet is the latter part, and we have a lot of events coming up where we have four athletes competing so we are looking forward to the days to come.

So what were you able to do with your morning off?
We went down to the Silk Market and I met up with Chris Campbell so he could help guide me through it. A little bit of everything you’d want to buy is in the market, so I bought some souvenirs and a lot of people were being fitted for suits so I got a new business suit and dress made. We met more local people so it was nice. It was good to get away from the track for a moment and see the culture of Beijing. It was a lot of fun.

How is Team USA treated when you go out into the city?
People out there expect to see us because they know the championships are here. The country made a lot of provisions for the championships, Beijing is a very polluted city and Chris told me that they have certain days that they can or cannot drive. He told me that the air is nicer now, but the water is pretty contaminated too.

How was Chris able to help you out in the city?
Chris is pretty fluent in the language here, he attended school here as a part of his international business degree from Carolina. While he was in law school he finished part of his degree in China as well. After this December he will be working out of Columbia for an international law firm.

Our women are still doing really well, we have people still advancing and of course my favorite thing today was to see Natasha (Hastings) get through the opening rounds pretty easily. We medaled in the 10,000 with Emily (Infeld), then a “newbie” to the game in Tori (Bowie) got the bronze in the 100, so the women’s energy is great right now. I love this momentum for us going forward, today was a very good day.

There have been great performances by a lot of the rookies so far, how much of a learning curve is it to compete against the world’s best?
At this level, to advance and make a final really helps with the growth of a young athlete. In your first time here, it’s a new level and there are things that you need to learn at this level so the sooner you learn them, the better. I’m really proud of the first-timers at this championship, and I think the support staff we have here has given them a comfort level they need to succeed. They’re major talents, of course, and they’re adjusting to this level pretty decently. They are our future and they are handling things well so far.

What is the one thing that separates rookies from veterans?
When you’re at this level for the first time, you need to just gain experience. At a meet like this it’s you versus the world, and every round has the best of the best. It’s a process trying to learn how to get through each round and it takes time and maturity to get there. Handling expectations or pressure and then the crowd is another challenge. Everyone here is just as good as you are, so it takes time to digest that mentally and still execute what you know how to do physically. It puts me into the mind of high school seniors when they first come to college and sometimes that freshman year can be great but it can also be shaky because it’s a new level. You have to adjust to new things.

What was the atmosphere like in the “Bird’s Nest” when the men’s 100m final was about to begin?
The whole stadium was sold out, it was very crowded and packed. Everybody was just anticipating the race, and I think we all expected Justin (Gatlin) to beat Bolt but it just didn’t happen. We were happy that we did medal, we wished for the place to be different, but Justin commented tonight that he’s not going to let us down on the 4×1. We told him that he didn’t let us down; it was a close race. There was much excitement in the stadium, it was very close. They did quite the lead-in to the race with all the introductions and it just built up the anticipation. We are also very proud of Travyon Brommel, that shows the future for our sprint crew. We were excited for him being so young and having his mother here, it was a very good day.

After the 100 meters there was the drug testing, then we always wait for the athletes to get back here before we have a celebration and welcome them back and eat some dinner. The coaches, the team and all the cameras are there and we do a toast to anyone that makes it to the podium.

How did your heptathletes finish out their competition?
Barbara (Nwaba) showed what a great heptathlete is made of today. I think this is her first World Championship, and obviously she had a mistake in the hurdles where she wasn’t able to complete the event so whenever you do not get points in an event you’re pretty much dead in the competition as far as placing goes. Even with her knowing that, she embraced the rest of the competition and went through it like a champion. I thought her attitude was just incredible, it’s one that you expect for an athlete of her caliber to have. Sometimes when things go wrong in the beginning it’s difficult to overcome that, but to me she is a true champion. I think you can always learn from your experiences, and she allowed herself to learn a lot from her experience here and I think she had a few events where she set a new PR. She’s setting her sights on Rio and she’s positioning herself and preparing. I commend her for her efforts.

There are a lot of late nights as a coach, what do you and your staff do to prepare for the next day of competition?
Sometimes if we get back too late we won’t be able to meet, but we get together at least once a day to make sure that we’ve gone over what’s happening the next day. Everybody is in tune to when call times are and when you need to leave the hotel. We have a system for each athlete when they leave the hotel, checking you in and out, checking on your uniform and then escorting the coaches and athletes to the busses and on to the warm-up fields.

What were some other highlights of the day for you?
The gold medal in the shot put was special, it was an incredible competition. The German shot-putter had been on a winning streak this year and it’s hard to break that, but Joe (Kovacs) did it for us tonight. It adds excitement to the event when you see someone doing something incredible.

Chris Campbell, our alumni, was able to come to the meet and watch tonight. He’s a former thrower and was excited to visit with his fellow Gamecocks and watch the hammer and shot events, and we were happy to spend some more time with him.

Walking into the stadium for competition time was exciting, especially in a stadium where the Olympics were held. It was a special kind of feeling. We had several people advance, and we had our heptathletes starting the day. Sharon Day-Monroe and Erika Bougard started the day off well, unfortunately for Barbara (Nwaba), her hurdle event didn’t go as planned and we didn’t end the day in the positions where we wanted to be, but Sharon’s second day is her strong point so we’re looking forward to that.

Throughout the day we had several people advance to the next round so all those things were really good ways to start things off. I was very excited that the energy was high because when it’s not good it’s hard to get going. We’re just excited to line up again tomorrow and keep sending people to the next rounds. We as a team always finish strong, so with the start that we’ve already had today I think it’s going to be a fun week to look forward to.

What are some of your responsibilities during the meet?
I’m responsible for our assistants and medical staff, making sure that they’re in the right places, and there are still athletes coming into the country and practicing so we need to make sure the coaching and medical staffs are there too. Just making sure everyone has what they need to be successful. Occasionally, you’ll have some athletes that may not have traveled their personal coach here, so that calls for some more attention. Tonight, I oversaw our triple-jumper Christina Epps because her coach wasn’t present and helped her through the competition.

That has to feel good to be able to coach up athletes of this caliber, right?
It does, and often times if the athlete needs help you don’t get too deep coaching them, but there are some basic things like steps, an angle or a take-off point. It does feel good to be able to assist in that manner in a meet like this.

What was your personal highlight of day one?
There were two highlights today for me, one was when (team captain) Michelle Carter won the bronze medal, and the other was when I was able to assist Johnny Dutch. It brought back a lot of memories from when he was on the team (at Carolina). I changed out his spikes for him as he was preparing to race. It was like old times, and for me it was a privilege to do that for him knowing that he’s about to line up and go show the world what he’s made of. I gave him a fist pump and we shared our team motto “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.”

I feel like my whole trip has been marked with excellence… I told the team what we tell our team back at Carolina: we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.

Coach Quarles

I can’t wait for the competition to start tomorrow, it’s been a long several days of training and training and touching base with the coaching staff across three different venues. There are a lot of moving parts but it’s exciting. Today I felt like I was starting my own competition because I had my staff meeting and then some interviews. That was a really cool thing to do, I was with Allyson Felix, Christian Taylor, Jenny Simpson and other members of the team. It was really cool and I just had adrenaline rushing all day today just getting ready to start this meet.

What has your journey to Beijing been like?
I left Columbia Aug. 8 and arrived in Narita, Japan the next day. The people were awesome; they treated us like royalty there and rolled out the red carpet for us. The food was great, the hospitality was akin to the people in the south back in the states. We had three different venues that we could train at and they were all very good, it was just a really great time there. It was a great time to mentally and physically prepare to come over to Beijing. Competition starts tomorrow, and there will be a little bit of a transition because Japan and China are definitely different from each other and if I had never been here personally I don’t think I ever would have known that.

Have you been able to spend time with all the former Gamecocks at the meet?
Johnny, Natasha and I have talked, we have been pretty casual and catching up but we haven’t talked too much about the competition. Johnny is feeling really good about his chances at the championships this year and looks to be successful and hopefully make the podium. Shevon (Stoddart) is staying at our hotel, and I’ve caught up with Jeannelle (Scheper) and Kierre (Beckles) briefly as well.

We as a group may try to get together after the first day tomorrow just so there’s a level of comfort for all of us. When you’re lining up to do something extraordinary, your comfort level is definitely important so the group is going to find some time to get together and just be a support system.

What have you enjoyed most about your trip so far?
My biggest excitement personally was when (former Gamecock) Chris Campbell came to the airport in Beijing and greeted all of the alumni when we came in. To know that he took the time out of his busy work schedule (he just finished his law degree), that really made my trip great. He’s doing such a fabulous job, he just graduated and he’s already doing great things. I’m really proud of him. I told all of our alumni, `you’re making me feel like a proud parent!’

How has your experience been leading Team USA so far?
I feel like my whole trip has been marked with excellence, and that’s what I told the team tonight at our meeting. What I’ve seen these last several days has been a mark of excellence, from their discipline, attention to detail and their passion about what they’re doing. I told the team what we tell our team back at Carolina: we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit. We’re just excited about getting out there tomorrow and starting the day.

I think the team is going to do some extraordinary things. I won’t make any predictions, but I really think this is going to be a very high medal count for both the men’s and women’s teams. Just watching them practice and interacting with them leaves me feeling amazing every day. This championship is going to be very special, and the bar will be raised going into Rio next year.