Upstate Set for 2011 A-Sun Outdoor Track & Field Championships
Spartanburg, S.C. – The USC Upstate men's and women's track & field team will look to build on its past success when it takes to the track in the 2011 A-Sun Outdoor Championships which start Friday at North Florida in Jacksonville.
The men's team finished sixth a year ago with Mike Meissner (Cottage Grove, Minn.) highlighting the way with his conference championship in the 400-meter dash. The Spartans are coming off of an impressive outing at the 2011 A-Sun Indoor Championships and have had successful outdoor meets over the last month. The women's team finished fifth at last year's outdoor championships and has had impressive results so far this season.
"We are excited to get the Championships underway," said Upstate head coach Jimmy Stephens. "Our team is peaking at the right time. We have worked really hard this year. We want to get out there, compete hard and see what happens."
The men's team boasts four individuals who are returning conference champions, highlighted by two-time champion Perrish Goggins (Columbia, S.C.) Goggins, who redshirted last year, won conference championships in the high jump and long jump as a freshman in the 2009 A-Sun Outdoor Championships. He has had a strong spring and looks to be a contender in those events, as well as the triple jump, in this year's meet.
Meissner is not only the defending champion in the 400 meters at the outdoor championships, but he also reigned supreme at this year's A-Sun Indoor Championship. He should be one of the favorites to defend his title this weekend. Justin Crawford (Elgin, S.C.) won the pole vault at the 2009 Outdoor Championships and will look to close out a successful career this weekend.
One event that has been a focus of the men's team is its performance in the 4x400-meter relay. The Spartans have traditionally not been strong in the event, but have made great strides this season. They finished second at the A-Sun Indoor Championships and have posted school records throughout the spring. The addition of brothers Matt and Michael Johnson (Elgin, S.C.) to the unit has bolstered the lineup which also includes Meissner and Cameron Thomas (Niceville, Fla.).
Other Spartans to look for in the championships are runners Ben Wheeler (Spartanburg, S.C.; 110-meter hurdles), Brandon Curry (Anderson, S.C.; 110-meter hurdles) Christian Ritacco (Niceville, Fla.; 3,000-meter steeplechase) and Josh Powers (Spartanburg, S.C.; 400-meter hurdles). Eric Chapman (Cowpens, S.C.) should also prove to be a factor in the discus and hammer throw.
The distance runners will be key to the success of the women's team. Joan Tangwar (Eldoret, Kenya), who finished third in the 3,000-meter run at the 2011 A-Sun Indoor Championships, should be a factor in both the 1,500-meter and 5,000-meter runs.
Carolyne Chelulei (Eldoret, Kenya), who had a tremendous cross country season last fall, and Jemeli Sang (Eldoret, Kenya) will be factors in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter runs. Freshman Ashley Edmond (Columbia, S.C.) has transformed the sprints on the women's team and has broken school records in the 200- and 400-meter dashes. She has also been the leadoff runner on the 4x400-meter relay team that has also broken the school record. She is expected to be a contender for a strong showing in the 400 meters at the meet this weekend.
"We are excited about getting a chance to prove ourselves at the Championships," said Upstate associate head coach Carson Blackwelder. "On the men's side, we have a lot of guys who can step up and take a top three finish. On the women's side, we are focusing on scoring quality points and building on our personal bests."