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Track and Field  . 

A Time to Soar for Gamecock Track

by Brad Muller

With 12 student-athletes qualifying in 13 events for the 2024 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, it has already been an outstanding season for South Carolina first year head coach Tim Hall. Although seven of South Carolina’s 12 competitors are making their first trip to the Outdoor Nationals, including six freshmen, the Gamecocks are not just happy to be there.

“It’s a young group, so that’s promising for the future,” Hall said. “Those young people are coming in and really buying in to the process and having goals and aspirations of doing this at a high level. This is just the beginning of it.”

“I think we’re laying the groundwork for years to come,” said senior Dylan Targgart, who is competing in the shot put. “I think big things are coming to Columbia, South Carolina. We’re a very battle-tested team. We’ve seen every sort of competition throughout the regular season. We feel ready to go and we’ve seen everybody that’s going to be there before.”

Hall added that he is not surprised that many of the younger competitors have made an instant impact.

“That was my expectation coming into our program – to be one of the best programs in the country in year one,” Hall said. “They accepted that challenge. Here we are. We’re in the top 15 on the women’s side, and in the top 20 on the men’s side. Year one has yielded some tremendous success, but we’re not done yet.

“I look at myself as being very fortunate to be in this space with this young talent. We’re going to continue to cultivate that talent and put them in the position to be at their absolute best and then watch them take off.”

“This is unfinished business. We’re never satisfied until we win.”
Dylan Targgart  . 

On the men’s side, junior Anass Essayi will compete in the 1500-meter race after finishing fourth in the event at last year’s championship, while junior Channing Ferguson is back at nationals for the second straight year and will compete in the high jump and long jump. Targgart and graduate C.J. Licata both made nationals in 2022 and are among the top five favorites in the shot put, while freshman Nyck Harbor is making his national championship debut in the 100 and 200-meter races.

For the women, freshmen Zaya Akins (400m, 4x100m, 4x400m), JaMeesia Ford (200m, 4x100m, 4x400m), Cynteria James (200m, 4x100m), Teresa Cherotich (steeplechase), Judy Kosge (1500m) and sophomore Sylvia Chelangat (800m, 4x400m) are first-timers for the Outdoor Championships, while junior Jayla Jamison (200m, 4x100m, 4x400m) has reached the penultimate meet for the second straight year.

For those that have been there before but did not score (finish in the top 8), they’re hoping their experience will pay off.

“This is unfinished business,” said Targgart, who recently earned his degree in finance. “We’re never satisfied until we win. That’s the goal, and that’s the plan. I think it absolutely makes it easier with the more experience that you have. It’s always a good thing. It makes it easier to execute because you can block out all the noise. It would mean a lot.”

“Mentally, I’ll be ready,” said Ferguson, who is studying public health. “I’ve been thinking about nationals since the beginning of the season. I think I’m ready for this. It will definitely be tougher doing two events, but I’m excited for it. The biggest lesson I learned from being there before is to come in with a level head and not be as nervous. At the end of the day, it’s another track meet. Just stay calm and have fun.”

“I just feel blessed and thankful for the opportunity to go compete,” said Jamison. “I’m still young and have a lot to learn. I’m trying not to think about it too much. I just focus on practice and go day by day and see where that takes me. You’ve always got to come with that mindset to win.”

As the Gamecocks prepare for their trip across the country, they try to keep their emotions in check while thinking about what it would mean to be a champion.

“It’s a mental game,” said Akins. “Being able to get this far and seeing how much I’ve grown is great.”

“Just coming to this school means a lot,” Ferguson said. “That was my dream coming out of high school. Going up to the podium at nationals would mean a whole lot to me. High jump is just fun. Everything about it is fun. I feel like it’s the most entertaining thing to watch.”

“The adrenaline will be pumping a little bit more than at a home meet, so you have to be cognizant of that and just make sure that you stay level and that you execute to the best of your ability,” said Targgart. “We’ve trained all year for this. It’s three throws, and we’re going to go as hard as possible and as fast as possible and just let the chips fall where they may. I like the pursuit of perfection. We’re always chasing perfection, but we never get there. So, getting closer and closer and chipping away at it is always thrilling and rewarding to me.”

Zaya Akins