Feb. 25, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina track and field program heads back to Fayetteville this week for the SEC Indoor Championships, hosted by Arkansas at the Randal Tyson Track Center. The meet begins Friday and will air live on the SEC Network + for both days. In last season’s championship meet at Kentucky, the men placed 10th and the women took 14th. This season, the SEC boasts four of the nation’s top five men’s teams and three of the top four women’s teams.
South Carolina will be in a familiar environment, having competed at Arkansas two weeks ago at the Tyson Invitational. The weekend was a big success for the team, with countless personal bests rewritten and season-best marks in six different events. The highlights came from David Winters’ 2nd-fastest 200m in program history (20.78), Dondre Echols’ 7.69 time in the 60m hurdles that gave him the national lead, and Josh Awotunde’s 62-3 mark in the shot put that pushed him up to third in school history.
– The 2016 indoor regular season came to a close over the weekend, with the Gamecocks sending select members to Virginia Tech while others stayed home to host the Gamecock Invitational on Saturday.
– Though the team competed in just six events total at the Virginia Tech Challenge on Friday night, they would bring home a pair of wins with some important performances. The men would pick up both wins, one in the pole vault and one in the 60m hurdles. Simon Gyllensten got back on the right track in the vault, clearing his first three bars. The rest of the field would fall back at 15 feet, seven inches, but Gyllensten settled at 17-0 1/2 for his final mark. That moved him seven in school history for the event, passing Dale Gerek’s 1989 height of 17 feet.
– Isaiah Moore picked up the other win for the night, dominating the competition in the hurdles. He won both rounds of the event and set a new personal best in the final with a time of 7.78 seconds. Jermaine Collier placed third in the final, picking up a season-best time of 7.88.
– Nakita Gray notched her second win in the high jump for the season, beating the field by almost a half foot. She would bow out at 5-11 1/2, which stands as a new season high for her. Michael Wamer wrapped up the jump team’s weekend by finishing second in the triple jump at 50-2 3/4, his second-best mark of the season.
– Back home at the Gamecock Invite, the women would be big winners on the track, racking up three wins for the day. It started with Alexis Malmberg in the mile, as the freshman shaved four seconds off her last race at home and came in just ahead of teammate Anna McElrath at 5:23.58. Then in the 800, Breanna Cole won with a time of 2:25.14. Allie Sprague had an outstanding run in the 3000 to close out the meet, running a season-best time of 10:26.32 to give her new personal bests in consecutive meets.
GAMECOCKS SPEND SUMMER ABROAD IN COMPETITION
– A few members of the current team have been competing almost non-stop for over a full calendar year after earning the chance to represent their countries internationally over the summer. Jussi Kanervo (Finland) and Markus Leemet (Estonia) returned home for the European U23 Outdoor Championships in July, with Kanervo bringing home a silver medal in the 400m hurdles. Leemet finished 10th in the decathlon.
– On the other side of the world, Dondre Echols ran the 110-meter hurdles and Michael Wamer competed in the triple jump in South Korea as members of Team USA at the World University Games. Running for South Africa at the meet was Ncincilili Titi, who performed well in the 200m dash. After qualifying for the final, Titi ran a 20.68 to finish fourth overall and just nine hundredths of a second off a bronze medal. His time was tenth-fastest in school history and the best of any Gamecock since 2010.
MAKING THE JUMP
– This indoor season has seen a breakthrough from the program’s jump team. Of South Carolina’s 20 top-10 marks set so far in 2016, six have come from the jumps alone. Michael Wamer and Natasha Dicks have provided the highlights, with Wamer moving into eighth all-time in the long jump (23-9) and third in the triple jump (50-9 1/4) and Dicks ninth in the long jump (19-8 1/4) and 2nd in the triple jump (43-2 1/4).
– Not to be outdone, the high jumpers have stepped up as well. Nakita Gray matched her personal best at the Virginia Tech Invite on Feb. 20, her height of 5-11 1/2 is second-best in school history. Tye Williams jumped 6-11 to move up to sixth in school history.
KANERVO RETURNS FROM MILITARY SERVICE
– It was a busy summer for junior Jussi Kanervo. Not only did he earn All-America honors in the 400m hurdles at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Championship, he also competed for his home country of Finland at the European U23s. Off the track, he returned home at the beginning of the school year to begin a six-month term as a member of the Finnish Army.
– Every able-bodied citizen of Finland is mandated to receive military training before reaching the age of 28, and with Olympic aspirations in the near future Jussi opted to spend his fall semester as a scout in the armed forces. He returned to campus in time for the start of the indoor season, and has been working to get back into competition after battling a nagging injury for the last year. Though he has only competed in one hurdle race this season, Kanervo has performed well as a quarter-mile sprinter and will race in the event at SECs.
FRYE TO COACH TEAM USA AT OLYMPICS
– South Carolina head track and field coach Curtis Frye will have a chance to add to an already-impressive international coaching career, as he was named to the Team USA men’s coaching staff for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Frye will serve as an assistant, overseeing the sprint and hurdle events.
– While at Carolina, Frye has coached 25 Olympians who have garnered 13 medals at past Olympic Games. In his most recent post with Team USA, Frye oversaw the sprints and hurdles at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow. His group won a medal in every event, taking home nine medals in total (three gold). Earlier in his career he served as head coach of the national team at the 2001 Goodwill Games.
– Also, in 2008, Frye was bestowed the Order of Ikkos Medallion, presented by the United States Olympic Committee. A special order reserved for the coach of an Olympic or Paralympic medalist, Frye received the honor after coaching Jerome Singleton Jr. to a silver medal in the men’s 100-meter dash at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.
REWRITING THE RECORD BOOKS
– The Gamecocks have been busy making edits to the program’s indoor record book, with 19 top-10 marks recorded this season (12 for the men, eight for the women).
– The marks have been spread evenly across all disciplines, with at least one top ten mark in sprints (4), hurdles (2), middle distances (2), distances (1), vertical and horizontal jumps (6), throws (1), pole vault (1) and multis (1).
WHERE DO I STAND?
– Entering the SEC Championships, the Gamecocks have eight men and five women who are ranked in the top 10 in the conference for their respective events.
– On the national level, four men and five women are ranked in the top 25 for their events.