Spartans Commence Indoor Track And Field Season At Orange And Purple Winter Classic Saturday
SPARTANBURG, S.C.—Head track and field coach Jimmy Stephens will begin his fourth season at USC Upstate, as he looks to elevate a young Spartans track and field program to even greater heights in 2010-11.
According to Stephens, for a program still in its infancy in just its fourth season of existence at Upstate, the biggest challenge for getting the program up and running has been establishing depth on both the men's and women's side.
"One of the biggest challenges in starting a program from the ground and building a foundation for success is being able to get the depth you need to compete with the Kennessaw State's and the East Tennessee State's of the Atlantic Sun," said Stephens.
The Spartans appear to have added tremendous depth this season both men's and women's squads. Both teams will teams will continue to improve in the final year of the transition.
Stephens feels as if the Spartans have turned the corner depth-wise on both the men's and women's sides. Stevens expects to see areas of improvement in different areas for the men and women this season.
"I really expect the women to see improvement in sprints and our relay teams, especially with some of the freshman this season, such as Maya Adams (Columbia, S.C) and Ashley Edmond (Columbia, S.C), which should give us the depth we need to be much improved in that area, added Stephens. As far as the men are concerned, I am really excited about what we added have added in throws, which has been a struggle for us in the past. The addition of Kenneth Sugishita is really going to help us in that area."
The Spartans will commence the 2010-11 indoor season on Saturday, making the short trip to Clemson University to compete in the Orange and Purple Winter Classic. The Spartans will be one of several regional teams competing at the one-day meet, which will include a nationally-acclaimed Clemson track and field team that is steeped in tradition.
Also among the participants in Saturday's meet at Clemson will be Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern, Jacksonville State, Florida A&M and Alabama State.
Upstate's strength on both the men's and women's side this season should once again its distance runners. On the men's side, junior Gilbert Kemboi (Eldoret, Kenya) and sophomores Cameron Thomas (Niceville, FL./Niceville HS) and Christian Ritacco (Niceville, FL.) will be the leaders among a strong core of runners in distance events.
As a freshman last season, Kemboi was sensational in his inaugural campaign as a Spartan, highlighted by his record-setting performance in the 5,000-meter run at the Niswonger Invitational.
Kemboi was able to shatter the previous school mark of 16:07.98, previously set by James Jackson at the previous season's Niswonger Invitational. Kemboli's time of 14:35.19 in last season's Niswonger Invitational was good enough to garner Kemboi the A-Sun's Track Athlete of the Week (Jan. 23-30, 2010). The record-breaking time was among the top 20 in the nation in 2010.
Kemboi also owns another school standard in the 3,000-meter run at the Vince Brown Invitational as he posted a time of 8:38.27.
Cameron Thomas was strong in his inaugural campaign with the Spartans, setting a school mark in the 800 meters, recording a time of 1:57.51 at the A-Sun indoor championships at East Tennessee State in late February. Ritacco set a new school mark in the 3,000-meter SC in the (9:56.54) at the outdoor A-Sun Championships last May at the University North Florida.
On the women's side in distance, junior distance runners Carolyne Chelulei (Eldoret, Kenya), Jemeli Sang (Eldoret, Kenya) and Joan Tangwar (Eldoret, Kenya) highlight a veteran, record-setting group of distance runners for the Spartans.
Chelulei set two school standards last season, posting new school records in both the 5,000 and 3,000-meters. She posted a 10:03.02 time in the 3,000-meters on the opening day (2/26/10) of the 2010 A-Sun indoor championships in late February, while setting a new school mark in the 5,000-meters a day later, with a time of 17:26.83.
Unlike the 2009-10 season, the Spartans will have more contributors in sprints, but the primary lynchpins remain seniors LaTerrica Blocker (Stone Mountain, Ga.), Gabrielle Walker (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and Kathryn Neely (Rock Hill, S.C.). Blocker and Neely will both compete in the 100, 200 and 400 meters.
Blocker notched the Spartans' top individual time in the 200 meters, posting a new school mark with a time of 26.70 on the first day of the outdoor A-Sun championships last season. Meanwhile, Neely registered her top overall performance in the 400-meter, as she posted a 1:15.84 mark at the USC Upstate Twilight meet during the outdoor season.
Walker will once again headline the women sprinters, while also be the most-accomplished Spartan in the high jump. Last season, Walker set a new school mark in the high jump, with a leap of 15-04.75 at the Vince Brown Invitational. Walker also set a new school mark in the 100-meter last season, posting a mark of 12.72 on the opening day of the A-Sun women's outdoor championships.
Sophomores Erica Farler (Simpsonville, S.C.), Camille Masanotti (Ladson, S.C./Stratford HS) and Christian Gamble (Columbia, S.C.) all look to build on solid rookie campaigns in 2009-10. Massonotti was the primary pole vaulter for the Spartans last season, setting a new school mark at the Gene Anderson Invitational on the campus of the University of North Carolina last season, posting a vault of 10-08.00.
After redshirting the 2009-2010 season, redshirt junior Perrish Goggins (Columbia, S.C./C.A. Johnson Prep) will look to leave one build upon what has been a distiguished career to this point for the Spartans' men's track and field team. He will again compete in multiple events and he excels in sprints, hurdles and jumps.
Most recently, Goggins claimed three individual championships at the 2009 A-Sun championship meet, as he set school standards in the high jump (6-06.75), triple jump (45-03.25) and long jump (45-03.25).
For the men's sprinters, seniors Michael Meissner (Cottage Grove, Minn.) and Graham Long (Easley, S.C.) will join Goggins in adding to the leadership and reliability of the Upstate sprinters in 2010-11. Meissner looks to build upon what was another strong indoor campaign, setting school marks in the 200-meter (23.32) at the Niswonger Invitational, while posting another program-standard in the 400-meter (50.14) at the A-Sun Championships.
During the outdoor season, Meissner continued to run strong, setting a new Spartan outdoor record in the 400-meter (48.51) at the A-Sun Championships at North Florida. Meissner was also a part of Upstate's 4X400 team that set school standards at both the indoor (3:29.26) and outdoor (3:24.73) A-Sun championships last season.
Long, who joins Meissner as an integral part of that 400-meter relay team that posted the school-mark at the outdoor championships a couple of seasons ago, will look to make a significant impact once again this season as a member of the relay team.
Danny Moore (Spartanburg, S.C.), Brandon Curry (Anderson, S.C.) and Dominic Simon (Sumter, S.C./Sumter) return for their sophomore seasons, looking to build upon each of their respective performances as freshmen. The return of Goggins to the fold should also play a vital role in the success of the Spartan sprint team in 2010-11.
Curry was especially impressive during his inaugural campaign with the Spartans' track program, establishing new school standards in the 55 and 60-meter hurdles last season. Curry set the school record in the 55-meter hurdles with an impressive mark of 8.00 at the Vince Brown Invitational. He set the 60-meter school record at the Clemson games, posting an 8.63 performance.
Eric Chapman (Cowpens, S.C.) will once again handle the throws for the Spartan men this season and should be among the best in the A-Sun this season. The senior has already left a strong legacy for future Spartan throwers, and it's a legacy that will tough for future Spartans to emulate.
Chapman will handle the Hammer throw and discus this season, which are the two events which he excels at the most. Chapman set a new school-standard in the 35-lb hammer throw last season, registering a distance of 157-03 at the Duke Invitational. Chapman also established a new record in the indoor, 35-lb hammer throw, notching a distance of 50-11.00 at the Gene Anderson Invite in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The event is scheduled to get underway at approximately 12:30 p.m. tomorrow.