Jan. 13, 2017
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The University of South Carolina track & field program opens the 2017 indoor season on Saturday, Jan. 14, when it heads to the Upstate for the Clemson Invitational. Field events begin at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday, while running events start with the women’s 500m run at 12:30 p.m. ET. The last scheduled event is the men’s 4×4 relay, set to go off at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Joining the Gamecocks and host Clemson at the event are Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, Florida State, Gardner-Webb, Jacksonville, Johnson C. Smith, North Florida, North Carolina A&T and Southern Wesleyan.
Saturday’s meet is the first official competition of the season for Carolina and the first time the Gamecocks have competed as a program since last season’s NCAA Outdoor National Championships in Oregon.
QUOTING HEAD COACH Curtis Frye
“I feel really good about our returners, the kids that have been with us a long time. (They’ve) done well in the classroom and been good citizens, all the things we’ve asked them to be. (They’re) good in the community, doing community service, and good at making grades. Last year, we turned out a large group of kids that were All-Americans. The goal this year is to take those kids, which have come up through the process (and win championships.)”
GAMECOCKS OPEN SEASON IN USTFCCCA TOP-25
Both Carolina programs will open the 2017 indoor season as top-25 teams, with the men checking in 22nd and the women 24th in the USTFCCCA National Indoor Preseason Rankings.
On the women’s squad, Briana Haith (2nd) and Aliyah Abrams (9th) enter the season with top-10 returning times in the 400m, and as a squad Carolina holds the 16th-fastest 4×400 returning mark. Also, Natasha Dicks sports the country’s seventh-best returning effort in the triple jump.
For the men, six Gamecocks enter the season with past marks that rank in the national top-30. David Winters ranks fourth in the 200m and 14th in the 60m, and Isaiah Moore is listed 10th in the 60mH. Ncincilili Titi’s 200m time ranks 11th, while transfer Ben Bonhurst checks in 11th in the shot put with Josh Awotunde 14th. Last but not least, Markus Leemet opens the season with the nation’s 26th-best returning heptathlon score.
Four Gamecocks return to the squad in 2017 after finishing last year as NCAA Indoor All-Americans. Natasha Dicks (Triple Jump) and Briana Haith (400m) both earned the honor on the women’s side, while Ncincilili Titi (200m) and David Winters (200m) grabbed indoor laurels for the men’s squad. Both Haith and Titi were also Indoor All-Americans in 2015.
Several more Gamecock veterans have earned Indoor All-America accolades in previous seasons, including Tyler Brockington, Marisa Bellamy, Precious Holmes and Jussi Kanervo. All four are back in the fold and looking to achieve greatness again in 2017.
Last but not least, several Outdoor All-Americans return from a very successful 2016 NCAA Championships. On the women’s side, Brockington (400m Hurdles, 4x400m), Holmes (4x400m), Aliyah Abrams (400m, 4x400m), Natasha Dicks (Triple Jump) and Shelby Freedman (Javelin) were honored at outdoor nationals last season. For the men, Kanervo (400m Hurdles) and Josh Awotunde (Shot Put) grabbed outdoor laurels a season ago.
SEC CHAMPION BACK IN THE FOLD
Though she has exhausted her indoor eligibility, senior Nakita Gray is already training for her final season of outdoor competition. Gray was the SEC Indoor Champion in the high jump last season, with a winning mark of 5-11 Â½. When she earned the crown last season, Gary became the first Gamecock female student-athlete to win SEC Indoor top honors in any event since 2011, and she added anther medal to the Carolina trophy case after alumna Jeannelle Scheper was the 2015 SEC Outdoor medalist.
HASTINGS’ GOLD HIGHLIGHTS CAROLINA’S IMPACT AT RIO OLYMPICS
Five members of the South Carolina track & field program represented the Gamecocks and their native countries at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Leading the charge was Natasha Hastings, who won her second Olympic gold medal as part of the 4x400m relay. Hastings ran the second leg of the 4×400 final, with the United States posting a time of 3:19.06 to narrowly defeat Jamaica’s 3:20.34. The Olympic medal was the 14th earned by a Gamecock in the program’s track & field history. Hastings nearly won an individual medal, finishing fourth in the 400m dash.
Head coach Curtis Frye served as an assistant coach for Team USA, helping the Americans earn 32 medals in Rio, including 13 gold medals. Three other Gamecocks competed in Rio: current student-athlete Aliyah Abrams (Guyana) placed 38th in the 400m dash, graduate assistant Jeannelle Scheper (Saint Lucia) finished 25th in the high jump and alumna Kierre Beckles (Barbados) came in 24th in the 100m hurdles.
THE COACH FRYE FILE
â€¢ The 2017 season is head coach Curtis Frye’s 21st season in charge of the Gamecock program.
â€¢ One of the most well-respected coaches in the country, Frye brought South Carolina its first team NCAA championship in any sport when his women’s team captured the 2002 NCAA Outdoor Championship crown.
â€¢ In 2008, Frye was bestowed the Order of Ikkos Medallion, presented by the United States Olympic Committee.
â€¢ During his tenure, Frye has coached over 60 NCAA champions, 117 SEC champions, 15 Academic All-Americans and more than 460 NCAA All-Americans.
â€¢ Following the 2016 collegiate season, Frye served as an assistant coach for the United States national team at the 2016 Rio Olympics. With Frye as one of their leaders, Team USA earned 32 track & field medals in Rio, including 13 gold medals.
â€¢ Frye is a three-time SEC Coach of the Year with the honor coinciding with his three women’s outdoor conference championships in 1999, 2002 and 2005.
MEET THE COACHES
â€¢ Delethea Quarles is in her 20th year with the South Carolina program and her 27th year as a collegiate coach entering the 2017 season. Promoted to assistant head coach in 2005, her primary responsibilities include coaching the multi-event performers and jumps. Quarles has extensive international experience, none more impressive than her 2015 post as the head women’s coach for Team USA at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China.
â€¢ Kevin Brown enters the eighth year of his second stint with the Gamecocks in the 2017 season. His primary responsibility is working with the pole vaulters in addition to working with South Carolina’s well-respected relay teams and sprinters. Brown is also the program’s recruiting coordinator. In the summer of 2016, Brown served on the Team USA coaching staff at the NACAC U23 Championships in El Salvador.
â€¢ Mike Sergent enters his 20th season with the Gamecock track and field program in 2017. His primary responsibilities are coaching the throwers and coordinating the strength and conditioning program. Sergent has coached 28 All-Americans, 45 NCAA qualifiers, 14 SEC champions and five NCAA champions at South Carolina.
â€¢ A 30-year veteran of distance coaching, Andrew Allden serves as the assistant track coach for distance and cross country. Allden has extensive international experience; in 2004, he served as a men’s assistant coach for distance in the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Hungary. He was the practice track director for distance at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and spent the 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons with the USOC as an endurance team coach.
â€¢ Hadrien Choukroun joined the full-time staff as an assistant coach for sprints and hurdles for the 2016 season and enters his second full-time year in 2017. Choukroun has been with the program since 2013, and spent 2015 as a graduate assistant. In his time with the program, Carolina has crowned 24 All-Americans (13 men, 11 women) in the sprint and hurdle events.
LAST TRIP TO CLEMSON
Carolina returns to the Clemson Indoor Complex for the first time since 2015, when it ran in both the Orange and Purple Classic and the Bob Pollock Invitational.
Among current Gamecocks, Tyler Brockington had the most success at the 2015 Orange and Purple Classic, as she won the women’s 200m dash. Briana Haith finished second in the women’s 400m dash, and the duo combined to lead Carolina to the women’s 4x400m relay victory. On the men’s side, Jussi Kanervo and Ryan Bermudez were part of the winning 4x400m relay team, while Isaiah Moore finished second in long jump and Richard Fish placed runner-up in pole vault. Overall, Carolina won 11 events at the meet, which opened the 2015 indoor campaign.
The Gamecocks returned to Clemson for the Bob Pollock Invitational, held Jan. 23-24, 2015. Markus Leemet scored a dominating win in the heptathlon, and Fish placed second in the pole vault.
UP NEXT FOR THE GAMECOCKS
South Carolina stretches out into its first multi-day competition of the season next week, as it participates in the Vanderbilt Invitational. The event runs Jan. 20-21 in Nashville, Tenn., and it’s a preview of the 2016 SEC Indoor Championship, which will be held at the same facility Feb. 24-25.