Jan. 19, 2017
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Full of momentum after a strong opening weekend, the University of South Carolina track & field program is back in action this weekend at the Vanderbilt Invitational. The two-day meet begins Friday at 4 p.m. CT, with Saturday’s action starting at 11 a.m. CT inside of the Vanderbilt Multipurpose Facility.
Carolina and host Vanderbilt will be joined by Arizona, Arkansas, Furman, Georgia Tech, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi State, Missouri, Samford, South Alabama, Southern Illinois, Southern Miss, Tennessee State, UAB and Western Kentucky at the meet. This is Carolina’s first look at fellow SEC rivals this season and also its first competition against ranked programs; the Arkansas women are ranked second and the men fourth in the preseason USTFCCCA rankings. Carolina, of course, is ranked 22nd in the men’s poll and 24th on the women’s side.
QUOTING HEAD COACH Curtis Frye
“Getting on a 300-meter track is different than running on a banked track. You have to really understand how to run into turns. Our kids have to get the feel of doing that. So the first time you do that, you don’t want to be at the conference meet. During the regular season, we try to visit every city where they have the conference meet, so that we can understand how to travel. We try to stay in the same hotel. We try to have our food catered from the same groups. We try to have that familiarity, so that our kids don’t have that anxiety coming from newness at the conference meet. .”
LAST WEEK AT THE CLEMSON INVITATIONAL
South Carolina opened the season with loads of momentum after winning 10 events at the Clemson Invitational, held Jan. 14. The Gamecocks collected eight individual victories and two relays wins, tops among teams at the event.
Hailey Sweatman (pole vault), Taranisha Taylor (60mH), Isaiah Moore (60mH), Simon Gyllensten (pole vault), Tye Williams (high jump), Michael Wamer (triple jump), Josh Awotunde (shot put) and Ncincilili Titi (200m) each won an individual title at Clemson, with several Gamecocks making a mark on the program’s record book. Also, Carolina brought home a win in the women’s distance medley relay and the men’s 4x400m relay.
Taylor (8.32), Wamer (15.78m | 51-9 Â¼) and Awotunde (19.05m | 62-6) set personal records in their victories and climbed the Gamecock record books. Taylor now holds the seventh-fastest 60m time in school history, while Wamer ranks second in the triple jump and Awotunde checks in third in the shot put. Also, Titi’s 20.94 in the 200m is a new Clemson Indoor Facility record.
Sweatman was the most successful of the 19 Gamecocks to make their indoor collegiate debuts at Clemson, winning the pole vault with a mark of 3.80m | 12-5 Â½.
GAMECOCKS IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS
Seven Gamecocks rank inside of the NCAA Division I Indoor Top-25 in their event after one week of competition.
â€¢ Josh Awotunde ranks fourth overall in the shot put. His mark of 62-6 is also tops among SEC throwers.
â€¢ Michael Wamer holds the fifth-best triple jump mark, at 52-9 Â¼. His jump is second-best in the SEC.
â€¢ Ncincilili Titi is listed sixth in the 200m, with his run of 20.94. Among SEC sprinters, that time is fourth-best.
â€¢ Isaiah Moore checks in with the 12th-best time in the 60mH. His mark of 7.91 fourth in the conference.
â€¢ Taranisha Taylor is ranked 15th in the nation in the 60mh with a mark of 8.32. Among SEC student-athletes, she is listed fifth.
â€¢ Eric Favors finished second in the shot put at Clemson with a mark of 59-2. That time is 19th-best in the nation and the top mark among freshmen.
â€¢ After placing second in the triple jump at Clemson with a mark of 41-0 Â¼, Natasha Dicks holds down the No. 20 spot in the national rankings.
GAMECOCK SUPERSTARS EXCEL IN THE CLASSROOM
Gamecock juniors Isaiah Moore and Ncincilili Titi have already achieved great success on the track this season, and that comes on the heels of outstanding academic semesters from both student-athletes. Moore and Titi each finished with a 4.0 GPA for the fall 2016 semester, anchoring a Carolina program that has long prided itself on academic excellence. Overall, the Gamecock women finished with a 3.449 GPA last semester, while the Carolina men finished at 3.140.
SAY HELLO TO NASHVILLE
This is Carolina’s first trip to Nashville the season and a preview of the 2017 SEC Indoor Championship. Vanderbilt will host the postseason conference meet at its renovated facility Feb. 24-25.
GAMECOCKS OPEN SEASON IN USTFCCCA TOP-25; NEW RANKINGS OUT JAN. 23
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) entered the season with top-10 returning times in the 400m, and as a squad Carolina held the 16th-fastest 4×400 returning mark. Also, Natasha Dicks sported the country’s seventh-best returning effort in the triple jump.
For the men, six Gamecocks entered the season with past marks that rank in the national top-30. David Winters ranked fourth in the 200m and 14th in the 60m, and Isaiah Moore was listed 10th in the 60mH. Ncincilili Titi’s 200m time ranked 11th, while transfer Ben Bonhurst checked in 11th in the shot put with Josh Awotunde 14th. Last but not least, Markus Leemet opened the season with the nation’s 26th-best returning heptathlon score.
Those part marks combined with early-season performances from 2017 will combine to produce the next set of USTFCCCA national rankings, scheduled to be released Monday, Jan. 23.
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.
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.
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.
UP NEXT FOR THE GAMECOCKS
The Gamecocks are in Fayetteville, Ark., next week for the Razorback Invitational, held Jan. 27-28. SEC Network will televise a portion of Saturday’s action beginning at 2:45 p.m. CT.