Feb. 19, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. – The indoor regular season comes to a close for South Carolina this weekend, the team will be resting up key members while many others go out for another chance at hitting a NCAA qualifying mark. The Gamecocks will split their participants up, with some traveling up to the Virginia Tech Challenge, and others staying home for the Gamecock Invitational. The two-day meet up in Blacksburg begins Friday, while the home meet will run all day Saturday.
Last weekend, the team enjoyed a record-packed meet out at Arkansas, facing a talented field at the Tyson Invitational. The men set five new season-best team marks out of their ten total events, and the women had five team-bests in their nine events. On top of that, six Gamecocks (five men, one woman) wrote their name in the program’s all-time top 10 across six events.
Thanks to those efforts, both teams made a healthy jump in the regional and national rankings. The men moved up 24 spots in the USTFCCCA team poll and now sit at No. 30, the women moved up five spots nationally and three spots regionally to move third in the southeast.
Senior Dondre Echols provided the first indication that it would be a special weekend for the team, after he brought home the 60m hurdles title with a new nation-leading time. He improved his times over the three hurdle rounds, winding up with a time of 7.69 seconds in the final. That moves him into a tie for the fastest in the country this season, and the new personal best moves him up to seventh in program history. For his efforts, he was named the SEC Co-Runner of the Week, making him the third Gamecock to earn a weekly honor from the conference.
The men’s team’s other significant personal best came in the field events. Michael Wamer improved his long jump for the second-straight weekend, reaching a top mark of 7.24 meters Friday afternoon. That moves him into a tie with Alexandre Asselin for eighth in program history.
For the women on Friday, Briana Haith set a new personal record, running 10th overall in the 400m invitational race with a time of 52.92. Her time ranks 14th nationally giving South Carolina three of the top 20 women in the 400m this season (joining Erika Rucker and Aliyah Abrams).
Saturday would bring more of the same, as the team left with three more wins and a handful of new PRs. The jump team got the day started in a big way, with a sweep of the high jump and a win in the women’s triple jump. Sarah Graham won the college-division high jump with a personal season-best height of five feet, 7 Â¼ inches.
On the men’s side, Tye Williams hit a new personal best and won with a height of six feet, 11 inches. It moves him into a tie for sixth in school history, and it was the team’s best mark since David Wilkins’ school record of 7-2 Â¼ in 2011.
Natasha Dicks continued her climb up the national rankings in the triple jump with another personal best to take the win Saturday. After opening with a foul, she leapt 43 feet, 2 Â¼ inches to take command of the lead. The mark added over eight inches to her PR set last weekend at The Armory, and moves her all the way up to sixth in the nation based on marks entering the weekend. She also jumped up to second in school history, past Rodena Barr’s 2000 mark of 42-11 Â½.
Josh Awotunde wrapped up the record-shattering day from the field events with a second-place finish in the shot put. He would set a new personal best in each of his first four throws, eventually settling with a top distance of 62 feet, three inches. Not only does it move him back into the top 20 nationally, it gives him the third-best mark in program history. He passed Jason Cook’s 2009 mark of 61-11; his performance Saturday was the team’s best since Brad Snyder’s school record set in 1998.
Not to be outdone by their teammates in the jumps and throws, Carolina’s track athletes would find equal success on day two of the meet. In the 200m, Briana Haith finished fifth overall with a time of 23.65 that is a new lifetime best and a new season best for the women.
In the men’s 200, David Winters and Ncincilili Titi finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the invitational round. Winters’ time of 20.78 was almost a half-second faster than he previous best and moved him all the way up to second in school history.
The team had only one distance event for the weekend, but Mary Reiser made it count. She ran second overall in the 5000m, chopping over ten seconds off her season best with a time of 17:16.15.
Live results are available for the Virginia Tech meet, and fans can also follow the team’s results at both events on Twitter at @GamecockTrack.