Spartans Ready for Annual Niswonger Invitational

Spartans Ready for Annual Niswonger Invitational

Contact: Katie Parker, 

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The USC Upstate men's and women's track & field programs are set to continue their indoor season this weekend at ETSU's 35th annual Niswonger Invitational with action beginning Friday in Johnson City, Tenn.

This will be the Spartans' first meet since opening the indoor season at Clemson's Orange & Purple Winter Classic Dec. 1.

"We are looking for this meet to have some really good competition," said Upstate head coach Natalie Smith. "There will be teams from several different states and regions represented at the Niswonger Invitational so we should see some good competition across the board. Of course with our student-athletes being off for the last month for the holidays, it is going to be interesting to see how we pan-out."

The Upstate women looked strong last month at Clemson, breaking six school records in the season-opener. Freshman Dominique Nock (Griffin, Ga.) led the way, accounting for two individual records and one relay record.

The Spartan 4x400-meter relay team of Nock, junior Ashley Edmond (Hopkins, S.C.), freshman Semaj Tolliver (Ladson, S.C.) and freshman Sarah Thomas (Columbus, Ga.) crossed the line with a school record time of 4:10.37 at the Orange & Purple Winter Classic. Thomas went on to posted a program best time of 42.68 in the 300-meter, while freshman Ashleigh Torres (Roanoke, Va.) clocked in with a school record time of 1:20.20 in the 500-meter. Sophomore Brittany Walls (Chester, S.C.) tallied an Upstate record of 2852 points in the pentathlon Dec. 1.

This weekend Thomas will be back in action competing in the 4x400 relay, 60-meter dash, 200-meter and the long jump. After her record-setting performance in the 500-meter at Clemson, Torres will be racing in the 400-meter, 800-meter and the 4x400 relay. Edmond, who finished just behind Torres in the 500-meter with a time of 1:20.91, is scheduled to compete in the 200-meter, 400-meter and 4x400 relay at the Niswonger Invite.

Walls is slated to participate in the 60-meter hurdles, long jump and shot put. She posted Upstate's best mark in the shot put in the team's first outing of the indoor season with a toss of 37-03.00. The sophomore crossed the line in 10.04 in the 60-meter hurdles at the Orange & Purple Classic, while posting a 15-09.00 mark in the long jump.

"I know that we will not be sharp in some areas, however we are looking for everyone that is wearing an Upstate uniform to step out there and compete," Smith said. "Due to it being very early we will have some people in different events as we work through finding the best fit for each individual and for our team, seeing that the A-Sun Indoor Championships are going to come upon us quickly."  

On the men's side, junior Matt Johnson (Elgin, S.C.) rounded out the record setting performances for Upstate at the Orange & Purple Winter Classic back in December. He took top honors in the 500-meter dash with a program-best time of 1:05.00, edging his previous school record mark of 1:05.08 that he posted at the 2011 edition of the Orange & Purple Winter Classic. He will return to action this weekend, competing in the 400-meter, 800-meter and 4x400 relay.

Upstate senior Brandon Curry (Anderson, S.C.) registered a time of 8.51 in the 60-meter hurdles Dec. 1. He will participate in both the 60-meter hurdles and the 60-meter dash at the Niswonger Invite this weekend. Joining Curry in the 60-meter dash will be junior Joshua Powers (Spartanburg, S.C.) and freshman Carlton White (Greenwood, S.C.). At the Clemson meet, Powers crossed the line in 7.35, while White followed with a time of 7.47. This weekend, Powers will also take part in the 200-meter and long jump, while White will compete in the 200-meter and triple jump.

Senior Kenny Sugishita (Arroyo Grande, Calif.) turned in strong performances for the Spartan men at the Orange & Purple Classic in the throwing events. He took first-place in the weight throw with a toss of 16.47-meters (54-00.50). In the shot put, Sugishita came in third with a hurl of 15.24-meters (50-00.00).

This will be the first meet for Upstate's men's and women's distance athletes to compete in, seeing as they did not run at the Orange & Purple Winter Classic.

"This will be our first competition where we will take most of our team so it will give us as a coaching staff a good gauge on where we are and where we need to go in order to prepare our athletes for success," Smith said. "As we move into this indoor season it is going to be bitter-sweet to see a lot of our men's team competing in their last seasons as quite a few of them are seniors and it will also be intriguing to see how our women's team comes together when over 60-percent of them are newcomers."

Three seniors from the Spartan men's team will be competing in the distance events this weekend. Gilbert Kemboi (Eldoret, Kenya) will participate in the 5,000-meter, while Cameron Thomas (Niceville, Fla.) and Dylan Taylor (Woodruff, S.C.) will run in the mile and 800-meter races. Thomas is also slated to compete in the distance medley relay. Juniors Ross Oden (Salisbury, N.C.) and Andrew Kipchumba (Eldoret, Kenya) are scheduled to join Kemboi in the 5K.

"Although we have totally different goals on the men's and women's teams overall, we are looking forward to a great season on both sides and believe that it is going to be a very rewarding season.   

Over 800 student-athletes from more than 60 teams will be competing at the Niswonger Invitational this weekend. The meet begins Friday at 10 a.m. with the women's 60-meter hurdles preliminaries, triple jump finals and weight throw finals. For more information about the meet please click here. Follow the Spartans this season on your mobile device, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.