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2019 Season Preview - Middle Distance & Distance
Track and Field  . 

2019 Season Preview - Middle Distance & Distance

Jones, Mueller among veterans looking to leave a mark in 2019

2019 Track & Field Preview – Middle Distance and Distance

The University of South Carolina track & field team returns to action this Friday for head coach Curtis Frye’s 23rd season in charge. In the days leading up to the start of the 2019 season, will preview each section of the Carolina squad, taking a glance at key returners and highlighting newcomers who could make their names as the next great Gamecock superstars. Today’s preview focuses on Carolina’s middle distance and distance groups.


“Before Otis came here, while we were recruiting him, he wrote us a letter about how he was going to be the school record-holder and a national qualifier. He’s certainly lived up to that billing. We still have a ways to go; we still haven’t made it to the NCAA Championships, so NCAA qualifying, both indoors and outdoors, is a big part of what he’s going to try to accomplish this season.”

“Allie had a solid cross country season. He PR’ed in the 5K and basically equaled her PR in the 6K. I really think there is significant room for improvement now in both the mile and the 1500m. She has a very heavy academic load this year with her pharmacy classes, so I basically told her we’re going to (focus on) the middle distances, since cross country will no longer be part of her future.” – Assistant Coach Andrew Allden on returning seniors Otis Jones and Allie Mueller


A pair of veterans took another step forward for the Gamecocks in 2018. Focusing on the 800m, Otis Jones set a new personal best, scored at the SEC indoor meet, earned a bronze medal at the outdoor conference meet and ended the season at the NCAA East Regional.

Carson Strom set new PRs at six different distances and ran the eighth-fastest 10K in Carolina history at the Penn Relays. He also earned a pair of top-20 finishes at the SEC Championships.


Jones secured bona fide contender status during a junior season that saw him reach new heights in every conceivable way. He started with the indoor season, running the fourth-fastest 800m mark in school history during the regular season and winning his preliminary heat at the SEC Championships. He went on to finish sixth at the conference meet, setting up an even bigger outdoor campaign. One day after graduating from Carolina, Jones traveled to Knoxville and finished third in the 800 at the conference meet, winning his first-career SEC medal. Still, there is unfinished business for the Sumter native, who has qualified for three-straight NCAA regionals but has yet to advance to the national championship.


Like Jones, Strom is a South Carolina graduate who chose to return for his final season of eligibility with the goal of making an impact at the conference and national levels. Austin Story and Chad Evans also bring veteran experience in 2019.


Allden signed a large group for this season, giving Carolina its deepest men’s distance crew in several years. Blake Newcomb will join the active roster after a redshirt season, and newcomers Ian Fladd, Mason Joiner, David Olds, Sean Petersen and Benjamin Thoms will look to secure their spots in the crowded lineup and build Carolina’s distance medley relay into a contender.


A distance crew made up of mostly underclassmen gained valuable experience in 2019, but several veterans set the pace. Allie Mueller was Carolina’s top performer in six different events, making great progress at middle distances. Colleen Openshaw and departed senior Kaylee Wessel also notched new program top-10 marks last season.


Mueller made history in 2019 as the 17th Gamecock to earn a spot on the Google Cloud Academic All-America Team. But the Oregon native wasn’t content with her 4.00 GPA, as she also rose up the ranks on the track, including an 11th-place finish in the mile at the SEC Indoor Championships, which was just one spot outside a berth in the final. She also finished 16th in the outdoor 1500m at the conference level, again finishing close to the points. On the heels of one final strong cross country season, the senior has designs on qualifying for a conference final in 2019 and putting points on the board for the Gamecocks.


Sophomore Heather Stone was the breakout star of the Carolina cross country season, pacing the club at five of its six meets, including a top-40 finish at the SEC Championships. She looks to parlay those efforts into track & field success in the spring. Anna Kathryn Stoddard also had a strong cross country season and is looking to pace the distance squad again after missing most of 2018 with a foot injury. Openshaw was Carolina’s top 5000m runner last season and should factor into the conference mix again in 2019. Sierra Biber showed promise in the 800m and should only improve with another collegiate season under her belt.


As usual, the Gamecocks bring in a deep class in 2019. Among the freshman class, Maryah Nasir was the lone Gamecock to crack the regional roster for the cross country squad, and she projects to be a middle distance contributor on the track. Cailin Saylor was the squad top freshman finisher at the SEC cross country meet, and several others will look to earn a spot on the travel roster this season.