April 14, 2016
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. – The South Carolina track and field program is heading back to the Sunshine State for the weekend. The Gamecocks will compete at the Seminole Invitational, hosted by Florida State. The two-day meet will begin Friday afternoon.
Entering the weekend, the men’s program ranks tenth nationally, while the women continue to climb and sit at 58th. Individually, 10 men and five women are ranked in the top 25 for their events nationally and five relay teams are also ranked top 25.
The team spent last week out in Athens, starting with the Bulldog Multis Wednesday and Thursday before bringing out the full team for the Spec Towns Invitational. Sarah Graham competed in the heptathlon and Alexandre Asselin went in the decathlon to start the week, and both came away with new personal bests. On day one, Graham was consistent and strong in her opening four events of the heptathlon. She began her day with a wind-aided personal best of 13.93 seconds in the 100m hurdles. That momentum carried into the high jump, where she matched her personal best with a clearance at 5 feet, 10 inches. She last reached that mark in May of 2014, and it stands as the fourth-best mark in school history. The senior would not peak there, though, and reached another personal best in the shot put. Her best throw of 11.61 meters (38-1 1/4) put her fifth overall in the competition. Graham stands fourth overall in a talented field heading into the final three events on Thursday.
Asselin opened the decathlon just a few thousandths of a second off his PR in the 100m dash, but he would match his career high in the next event, the long jump. He hit 23 feet, 6 3/4 inches on his second attempt to take ninth, his best finish of the first day. He finished his first day in the 400, where his time of 50.68 was good for ninth. Going into Thursday’s final five events, Asselin ranks 14th out of the 17 remaining competitors.
On Thursday, Graham closed as strong as the started to earn the third-highest heptathlon in school history, and Asselin became the sixth Gamecock ever to crack 7,000 points in the decathlon.
Fresh off a four-PR day on Wednesday to begin the heptathlon, Graham proved to be equally dominant in her final three events. She came just a few inches shy of a new personal best in the long jump despite facing a head wind, but rallied to earn new personal bests in the javelin (100′ 3″) and the 800m to finish her competition. Her final tally of 5,423 points pushed her up to third in school history with the best score since Tacita Bass back in 2001. It also moved her up to 13th in the country based on scores entering the week.
Asselin had five events ahead on him to close out the decathlon, and he too entered the day with a chance at a new high score. He started with season bests in the 110m hurdles and discus, but broke through in his final three events. His charge started with a new personal best in the pole vault after clearing 14-11, he then followed with a javelin PR (at 159-11) and capped his competition with a 14-second improvement on his previous best time in the 1500m. That final raced pushed him to a final point total of 7,110, the fifth-best in program history and into 15th nationally for this season. He finished 12th overall in the field.
“You can only do your best, and that’s what they (Alex Asselin and Sarah Graham) did,” head coach Curtis Frye said. “We’re quite happy with those types of performances, but this league is so tough. You’re going to have to score 7400 on the men’s side to score points, so we’re still looking for improvement out of Alex. He didn’t have a perfect meet, so we know he’s got a lot more left in him. Sarah is the same way, the SEC sent eight women to nationals in the multis indoors, she’ll need to have another personal best to get to the NCAAs this season.”
The Gamecocks opened competition at the Spec Towns Invitational Friday afternoon, competing in nine total events on a cool and blustery day. The long jump opened the day, and Natasha Dicks posted the team’s top finish after taking third with a new personal best. She cracked the six-meter barrier for the first time, reaching 6.06 (19-10 3/4) on her first attempt of the afternoon to move into a tie for tenth in school history. Chalese Davis (5.96m) and Makyla Stanley (5.80m) enjoyed season-best marks to finish fifth and seventh, respectively.
In the men’s long jump, Michael Wamer and Isaiah Moore reached new season bests as well. Wamer went 7.31 meters (23-11 3/4) to match his outdoor PR and finished fifth overall. Moore hit 7.16 meters (23-6) on his third attempt and finished sixth.
Simon Gyllensten would fight the strong winds to reach a top-10 program record height in the pole vault Friday. He passed 5.11 meters (16-9 1/4) on his third and final attempt to move into third place in the final standings. It also bumped him up to tenth in school history for the event, the first Gamecock to enter the list since 2012.
There would be just two races on the meet’s first day for South Carolina, coming in the hurdles and the 3000m. In the women’s 100m hurdles, three finished with season-best times, led by Chalese Davis’ 13.56 (1.4) that put her fifth overall. Funlayo Oluwole (13.91) and Milan Parks (13.95) also had season bests, but came with an illegal wind.
In the men’s hurdles, Isaiah Moore won his race in convincing fashion, crossing in 13.85 (1.9). Dondre Echols made his 2016 outdoor debut in the 110 and finished third, and Greg Chiles ran his first collegiate 110 and finished fourth in 14.97.
Closing the first night were the men’s and women’s 3000m. The women put five in the field and came away with three new personal-best times. Christine Kent led the pack with a fourth-place time of 9:55.92, the eighth fastest time in school history and more than a six-second shave off her previous best time. Mary Reiser came in right behind her at 9:56.49 to place fifth, and her time keeps her locked in as the ninth-fastest in school history. Kaylee Wessel took almost 30 seconds off her previous best time and came in ninth (10:15.22).
The team rolled out seven winners Saturday afternoon in the final day meet. The Gamecocks continued to perform well in the sprints in spite of another day of cool temperatures and strong winds.
It would be the men’s 4x100m relay team that started South Carolina’s winning ways. The team of DeVon Lewis, Ncincilili Titi, Dondre Echolsand Greg Chiles ran 39.71 to hit a new season-best time and win the race. It moved the Gamecocks into the top 10 nationally based on times entering the weekend. The women’s ‘A’ team of Gabby Gray, Tyler Brockington, Alexis Murphy and Briana Haith also set a new season best, running 44.28 to finish second overall.
Titi followed up his relay win with a big run to win the 100m dash. He beat out Lewis with a time of 10.29 seconds and a legal win, pushing him into the top 10 nationally for the season and all the way up to ninth in school history. His finish was the first wind-legal time to crack the top 10 in school history since 2005.
Ryan Bermudez was also a double winner on Saturday, starting with a top time in the men’s 400. He beat out the field with a time of 47.73, then carried the lead baton on the winning 4×400 team that also included Greg Chiles, Jussi Kanervo and Titi.
Kanervo had to battle the elements to secure an individual win earlier in the day, coming in the 400m hurdles. Despite strong winds on his run, he beat out the field by more than two seconds to win the event for the second time this season, finishing in 51.34. Chiles came in second at 53.83.
For the women, the key moment on the track came in the 400m, where three Gamecocks finished in the top four. Leading the way was Aliyah Abrams, who ran a new personal best of 53.17 to take the win. Coming in third was Precious Holmes, who took a full second off her previous season-best time for a breakthrough time of 54.06. Marisa Bellamy came fourth with a 54.27 run, marking the third-straight race this season where she has improved on her time.
In the field events, Michael Wamer continues to improve in the triple jump, reaching a season peak of 52 feet, six inches to get the win. This is his second-straight meet surpassing the all-important 52-foot barrier.
The women’s top field performance of the day came from the throws, where Shelby Freedman came in third for the javelin with a new personal best. The sophomore threw 155-3 on her fifth attempt of the afternoon, moving her up from the middle of the pack and adding more than two feet to her previous PR, which ranks second in school history.