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Gamecock Shares Haiti Mission Trip Experience

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The following blog post was written by rising junior student-athlete Taylor Josserand from the swimming & diving team about her mission trip to Haiti.

Hope for Haiti
On May 19th I returned from Titanyen, Haiti (just north of the capital, Port-au-Prince) where I was working at the Mission of Hope Haiti Organization.  While there I helped at the orphanage, worked on construction projects and went to different villages surrounding the area to visit with the kids, minister, and pray with the families. It was truly a remarkable experience and one that I can say has changed my life.

I was in Titanyen for one week and stayed on the main campus of Mission of Hope (MOH). MOH has two other campuses as well, but the main one, located in Titanyen, consists of an orphanage, church, schooling from kindergarten through high school, a prosthetics lab, staff and guest housing, as well as their Three Cords building. Three Cords is a business of headbands, housing supplies, recipes, bags, and much more all designed by disabled Haitian women.  All of the proceeds go to these women to support them.

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Josserand with a young girl in a Titanyen orphanage

It's hard for me to put my experience into words, as I'm still in the process of taking in everything that occurred and I experienced and much of what I felt cannot even be described through words.  Many have seen photos of this third world country, but you truly cannot be impacted to the full effect without having been there and seen it with your own eyes.  Many assume the worse about Haiti and when people heard that I was going there for mission work they automatically asked if I was scared or nervous. Yes, I was both, but I can tell you I felt so safe while there and the people of this country are so genuine, happy, and appreciative of what they get. I have never seen so much happiness and joy, especially in the children, while having absolutely nothing.  Life over there is so hard and people have absolutely nothing, yet they somehow manage to find hope and put a smile on their face. I honestly was shocked. I don't know how they live the lives they do.  Most do not have food, do not have homes, and do not have much clothing. The children I saw out in the villages rarely had both a shirt and pants on, and most did not have shoes on. The homes they lived in, if they had homes, were made of plywood or tent-like structures, serving very little purpose except to maybe supply some shade and coverage during the rain. It was so hot and most of these villages do not have trees to provide any type of shade, so it makes it very hard for anyone to really escape the heat.  The children I met were incredible.  I have never seen such obedient children, who were all so loving and gentle!  They flock to you and simply want your hand to be held and you to hold them, and that puts a smile on their face.

Haiti is a beautiful country, full of so many wonderful people.  The MOH Organization started in 1998 and is continuing to grow and to help the people of Haiti so that one day they can be self-sufficient and help the country become successful without MOH.  They have so much love for their country, but they just need the education, so much of this organization is focused on the younger generation, as they are the hope this country has.

Going to Haiti is one of the best decisions of my life, and I will continue to support and do all I can for Haiti through this organization, as well as planning another trip to Haiti this year, and many more to follow. It was a life changing experience full of so much love, joy, happiness, and hope. I recommend everyone to one day make a trip there, as it will change your life!

Gamecock Swimmers Help Give Hope to Harper

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Written by student assistant Rebecca Duensing

The Women's Swimming and Diving team has their eyes set on a big event coming up, but it's not a swim meet. In a few weeks they will participate in Relay for Life on campus, with a very special motivation for their walk.

Her name is Harper Doughtie, a seven-year-old girl living in North Carolina who they have never met. Harper was diagnosed with leukemia on September 9th, 2011.  The form of leukemia that Harper has is very rare, attacking her immune system. While she is undergoing chemotherapy, her immune system is so weak that she isn't allowed to have visitors.

Maryn Bieganski_crop.jpegHead Coach McGee Moody and Harper's mother, Vickie Doughtie, were friends in college and he learned through Facebook about her daughter's illness. Moody thought that it would be a good idea for the team to support her and Maryn Bieganski (left) and several other members agreed. Bieganski said that the idea of helping Harper really "hit the hearts" of the team. Over the last six months, Moody says that "Harper has become an integral part of our women's team and they talk about her often."

According to Moody and Bieganski, it was senior captain Mallory Cage who really organized the effort and assigned members to send Harper cards, games or books at least four times a month. Bieganski said that for every holiday the team would send a basket of crafts they made or activities for her to do. Doughtie said the team "took the ball and ran with it," that the women all of a sudden started sending letters to cheer Harper up. Doughtie knows it's hard for Harper, who isn't able to be around children her own age, to be cooped up at home all the time with her and her dad. Doughtie said that the team has been "really great," and that "she [Harper] loves getting her packages in the mail."

The team made a video to send to Harper as an introduction. Moody said it was "nothing major, just an introduction where they all talked for a second, said hey, and let her know they were sending some gifts."  Bieganski said it was a chance to let Harper know they were "praying for her and fighting for her." The team also sent Harper a swim team shirt that Doughtie notes has become her favorite nightgown.

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From Harper's Facebook page: "Harper in one of her t-shirts from the Univ of SC swim team - she loves to wear it as a nightgown. Thank you to the ladies swim team for all the support for Harper! We really appreciate it!"

Doughtie remembers one package specifically; it came around Thanksgiving, right when Harper got sick again and had to be admitted to the hospital. The package was full of hand-drawn turkeys made from the team's handprints. Doughtie said the best thing about it was being able to see Harper smiling and laughing because the team took time to make them. She loves that the things Harper receives from the team aren't generic. They "take time to make it personal; that's what's so cool."

"Anytime anybody takes interest in your child and does anything to make your child happy when they're going through something so tough, I can't even express it. It just means a lot," said Doughtie.

Moody believes that Harper has given the team some perspective of what is really important. Bieganski noted that the team comes to practice every day a little bit happier.

"Our situations aren't as bad. You could be having a bad day at school, you could have a bad exam, but you aren't in quarantine," said Bieganski. "It's something you really have to think about."

For Bieganski individually, Harper has really come to mean a lot. Bieganski shared that she thinks about Harper daily because she has loved ones with cancer, some of whom have passed away. Bieganski said it affects her and helps her be "grateful to be able to go through daily life without complications like that, and to be thankful for all that I have."

Bieganski and teammate Rachel Elliot organized a Relay for Life team in Harper's honor and have chosen to name themselves "Harper's Helpers." They have designated the money they raise to go toward research in the field of childhood cancers.

Moody and Doughtie both hope to be able to bring Harper to a meet in the future once she is well enough to travel. Doughtie was enthusiastic that there was "no doubt" about whether they would come down.

"[Harper] can't wait to make it down there and give all of them hugs," said Doughtie. "They've got to be a pretty special group to do this for a little girl that they've never met."

Even though they live in Tar Heel country, Doughtie says they've become a whole household of Gamecock fans.

Scoreboard: South Carolina Leads Clemson in 2011-12

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So far in the 2011-12 school year, South Carolina holds a 9-3 record vs. Clemson, including taking wins in each of the most visible sports: Football, Men's Basketball, Women's Basketball and Baseball.

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Senior right fielder and series MVP Adam Matthews .417 (5-for-12) in the three games including a three-run homer in Saturday's victory.

The most recent wins against our rival came this weekend as the back-to-back National Champion baseball team won the first two games out of three to win the series vs. Clemson. The Gamecocks have now beaten Clemson in 16 of the last 23 baseball contests between the two schools dating back to the 2007 season.

Football has also strung together an impressive streak with three consecutive years of dominating wins over the Tigers. This year's 34-13 victory in Columbia, the 10th of the season for Carolina, is still fresh in every Gamecock's mind:

Men's Basketball collected their second consecutive win over Clemson with a 58-55 victory in December on the road at Littlejohn Coliseum just eight days after the football team's big win. Bruce Ellington was a part of both the football and men's basketball wins having joined his teammates on the hardwood at the end of the football regular season.

Women's Basketball also defeated Clemson in their house in November, led by a 19-point outing from senior Charenee Stephens and shooting 50% in the first half to help deliver a 65-48 victory.

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Women's Soccer seniors hold up four fingers to represent four straight wins over Clemson.

Other wins came in Women's Soccer with a 2-0 victory on the road at Clemson (fourth consecutive win, all shut-outs, making this year's Gamecock senior class the first to go undefeated against the Tigers); Men's and Women's Swimming & Diving (the Gamecocks won 19 of the 32 events to sweep the Tigers in the final meet between the two schools as Clemson is ending their program); and Women's Tennis (a 4-3 upset by #26 Carolina over #17 Clemson at the new Carolina Tennis Center). The Gamecocks' only losses to Clemson this year are in Men's Soccer (first win for the Tigers in the past five meetings), Volleyball, and one game out of the Baseball series. Men's Tennis is the last team to face off with Clemson in the regular season this year as they will go on the road to Clemson on March 14th at 1:00 p.m. 


Beating Clemson...

It's Passion.
It's Pride.
It's Loyalty.

It's the Garnet Way.

Written by student assistant Rebecca Duensing

This weekend will be the final showdown between South Carolina and Clemson, not on the football field, but in the pool. A series that dates back to 1923 will come to an end as Clemson has decided to phase out their Swimming and Diving programs at the end of this season. We caught up with some members of our South Carolina squad to find out what the rivalry meant to them.

"For me, it's been one of the biggest meets, every single year," said senior swimmer Mallory Cage. "We've had swimmers get their best times in the middle of the season, which is unheard of almost and it's always the most exciting meet."

Cage said they plan months in advance to face their rival and while it is sad to see the rivalry come to an end, she hopes it will go out with a bang - a big Gamecocks win.

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A packed house at the last full meet between the two programs held at Carolina in 2010. For this year's meet, the Diving portion will be in Columbia and the swimming in Greenville.

For senior swimmer Ryan Connolly, Clemson is the biggest meet of the year besides SEC's because there's so much anticipation leading up to it. Not many meets are as intense as the rivalry meet, and that intensity is not always just between the swimmers. Connolly's favorite part of the rivalry is the huge crowd that comes and gets involved cheering. While it'll be sad to lose that rivalry, he said, "it'll be fun to beat them one last time."

Senior swimmer Lindsey Olson and junior diver Rylan Ridenour also agreed that it's a highly anticipated meet because they get so excited and revved up. Ridenour said it gives him the motivation to train a little bit harder in preparation.

Olson reflected on the a favorite memory in the series from her freshman year, saying, "Our swim meet was incredible. It was home and the seniors were just revved up and we blew them away."

Cage still remembers recording her best time of the season in the 200m breaststroke that year, along with a few other Carolina swimmers in the same event to give the Gamecocks an edge.

"It was just so exciting because it was the turning point in the meet and we were like 'we've got this,'" said Cage. "I remember looking across the pool and [the Clemson team] were all sitting down."

Looking to this year's meet, Olson has bittersweet feelings saying that, "it's kind of sad, being a senior and it's their last year of being a program. It's pretty exciting though because it'll be good to end on a win." Ridenour predicted that "the scores are going to be high, and it's going to be a good time."

The diving portion of the meet will be held on Friday, October 28th at 6:30 p.m. in the Carolina Natatorium at Blatt P.E. Center. The swimming portion will be Saturday, October 28th at 12:00 p.m. at the Westside Aquatic Center in Greenville, S.C.

With the 2011-12 season right around the corner, we wanted to take a look back at the past year. We're down to the last few moments in our countdown of the Top 15 Gamecock moments from 2010-11 across several sports from the Spurs Up perspective. It was a good year for the Gamecocks, so I hope you enjoy reminiscing with me!

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#4 - Amanda Rutqvist Wins South Carolina's First-Ever SEC Swimming Championship

There have been a lot of "firsts" for South Carolina in the past year, and first championships are high on the list! On February 19th, 2011, freshman Amanda Rutqvist delivered the Gamecocks' first SEC swimming championship in program history with her victory in the 200-yard Breaststroke event at the SEC Championships in Gainesville, Florida, and took her place at #4 on our Top Moments countdown. 

Rutqvist led the field the entire race and broke a 10-year-old SEC record with her time of 2:08.56. She beat the second-place finisher by almost two full seconds. The women's squad would go on to finish sixth, their best SEC finish since 2006.

Rutqvist's historic win came a week after another big success as Taryn Zack won her second SEC Championship in 1-meter diving. Zack's winning score of 336.55 was also a new SEC record.

The South Carolina Swimming & Diving teams look to continue their progress under head coach McGee Moody in the 2011-12 season after strong performances in national competitions this summer, including USA Swimming Nationals and the UltraSwim event in Charlotte.

Stay caught up on the Top Moments countdown. I'll post the next moment every weekday and Saturday until we get to #1!

#5: Men's Soccer Wins C-USA Championship in OT

#6: Marcus Lattimore's Record-Breaking Game vs. Florida

#7: Sam Muldrow Sets Career Blocks Record

#8: Johnna Letchworth Named All-American with Nation-Leading Record

#9: Fans Welcome Home the SEC Eastern Division Champions

#10: Women's Golf Advances to NCAA Championship

#11: Women's Soccer Advances on PK's to SEC Tournament Championship

#12: Freshman Julie Sarratt Throws No-Hitter in Debut

#13: Cocky's 30th Birthday Party

#14: Women's Basketball Upsets LSU, 63-61, at Colonial Life Arena

#15: Alshon Jeffery's season-long 70-yard touchdown vs. Tennessee

From walk-on to senior captain : Bridget Halligan

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Check out this storyline. A freshman walk-on starts her first week of college swimming under a new coaching staff.  She is hospitalized after just a few days with a bout of rhabdomyolysis and struggles through the first five or six weeks of practice leaving the head coach to wonder if she'll make it... Fast forward four years and she is one of the top sprinters in a premier Division I swimming conference and a senior captain and leader for her team. Almost sounds like a movie plot, right? But it's the real-life story behind senior Gamecock swimmer Bridget Halligan.

Halligan arrived on campus as a freshman almost simultaneously with the hiring of new head coach McGee Moody in 2007 unsure what to expect from the new staff. She knew she wanted to come to South Carolina after falling in love with the campus on her visit. Swimming at an SEC school was a big goal and great achievement for Halligan, though it was a rocky start for the Pennsylvania native. "We're getting into our workouts and because of a lot of changes and a lack of coaching staff on campus there had been very little preseason workouts," said Coach Moody. "We went to work assuming all these things had been happening before we got here and we had a breakout of rhabdomyolysis." Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle fibers resulting in the release of muscle fiber contents (myoglobin) into the bloodstream. It can cause severe muscle stiffness, tenderness, and weakness as well as potentially damage the kidneys. Halligan at first didn't think anything was wrong with her, just that she had never worked out that hard before. " I'm still baffled by the whole thing, that seven of us got it and no one else did," said Halligan. "It was a big shock to everybody and we've come so far from then. I think we've been more aware of what's going on with everybody. The athletic trainers have been more keen on being aware of what each individual is doing. It was a learning moment."

Some people might have quit at that point. Not Bridget Halligan: "Quitting never entered my mind just because I knew what I was capable of and a few other people knew that and kept me going. There were definitely days where I was like, this is unbelievably hard. A lot of it was staying positive, as cliché as that is, but it honestly helps because the negativity affects you so much."

Even Moody wasn't sure yet about Halligan. "Her first five or six weeks I told [assistant coach] Steve Steketee I wasn't sure Bridget was going to make it. He said, 'You know what, I disagree, I think she's going to be great. Give her a year, she'll be fine. I predict she's going to go 23.5 [in the 50m freestyle] and 51.5 in the 100 [freestyle].'" At the time she was nowhere close to those times, but Coach Steketee and Halligan eventually made believers out of everyone. By the end of her freshman season, Halligan swam 23.56 in the 50m free and 51.68 in the 100m free. Moody jokingly recalls, "I gave Steve grief about her NOT going 51.5." That was a turning point for Halligan who said, "Okay, I can do this. I got some confidence and my whole mindset changed. Everything I do now is for swimming. Eat, sleep, my whole life revolves around swimming because everything I do affects that race."

Moody continued, "I've never seen a young lady make a commitment to the sport like she has. She changed her focus on the sport, she changed her nutrition, she changed her workout habits, basically her overall lifestyle. Everything was focused on being great in class and being great in the pool. Everything she did, that was the center of her focus."

Halligan earned (affectionately) the nickname "Grandma" from her teammates because of her lifestyle choices such as going to bed early, not going out, etc. "That's just how it was," says Halligan. "I ate, slept and breathed swimming. I've grown to love the sport more now than I ever thought I would. Loving it is putting 100% into it and that's what makes the difference between different levels of swimming and getting there." That commitment to the sport positioned her as a leader on the team.  Moody said, "our athletes tend to just watch her. Her actions lead the way and that speaks volumes."

Halligan's progression over four years has been nothing short of remarkable, requiring some serious mental toughness to get through. "I knew I loved the sport and wanted to commit myself to it, but when I got here I was at a stage where basically everyone was better than me. I was awful at practice, I really was. The mental aspect is what got me through it. Motivating myself and believing in myself that I could do it was what got me through it, along with the people around me. A lot of it was hard work and putting my heart and mind into it. Now as a captain on the team it's a totally different perspective from being a walk on freshman. I was in a place where I knew I had to step up. I wasn't in a spot where I could get any worse, so it was more proving to myself I could do it." The support of her coaches was also instrumental for Halligan. "Knowing there was someone out there who believed I could do it. That [Steketee] called the time of what I would go and then what I did go was kind of freaky, but it's great having someone who supports you like that."

Halligan's personal best in the 50-m freestyle is 22.88 set in last year's SEC Championships, which was also the top time in the event for South Carolina that year and the fourth-fastest 50 free time in school history. This season she again has the Gamecocks' best time in the 50 free at 23.03 and the 100 free at 50.85, a career best. This week she'll head to the 2011 SEC Championships in Gainesville, FL, for a chance at more best times and to hopefully solidify her shot at a berth in the NCAA Championships.

From a walk-on to senior captain, she's established herself as one of the top sprinters in the SEC. Someone who coaches weren't sure was going to make it through the first five weeks now has an outstanding shot of making the NCAA Championships. Moody explains, "You have to understand how hard that is. You have to be an elite athlete to be a Division I swimmer anyway. Out of those swimmers only the top 1% actually move on to the NCAA championship meet. Only 48 girls in the country make her event [50-meter freestyle] and I think she has a really good shot of being one of those girls. If she doesn't, it's not because she hasn't done her part. She's done everything she can possibly do to be good. She's a young lady I'm really, really proud of. I use her a lot in recruiting because you don't have a better story of someone who made the conscious decision, 'I am going to do this.'"

Bridget Halligan's focus on display vs. Alabama and Georgia in the Senior Meet

Swimming & Diving prepare for intense final home meet

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Swimming & Diving hosts its final regular season meet this Saturday in a big SEC match-up with Georgia and Alabama. This is a rare opportunity to see our swim team in action at home and will serve as somewhat of a preview of the SEC Championships in mid-February. With all three men's teams competing ranked in the Top 25, all eyes in the college swimming world are on this marquee match-up this weekend. The Gamecock men's team is currently ranked #22 in the country and will be putting their undefeated 9-0 record up against the #9 Bulldogs and #16 Crimson Tide men's teams. On the women's side the Gamecocks will face a tough test in #2-ranked Georgia and an Alabama squad just outside the Top 25.

"This is the biggest total meet of the season for our men and women," said head coach McGee Moody. "We match up really, really well with Alabama and I think we're going to have some great races with Georgia. We're pretty excited about it; it's an opportunity where we're going to have to step up."

As the last home meet it will also be Senior Day for 10 seniors, so cheer a little extra for our graduating swimmers and divers. The Swimming & Diving teams will also be recognized at halftime of the Women's Basketball game vs. #20 Georgia on Thursday night.

The intensity level of the meet is not lost on Coach Moody: "This is the finale. This is our last opportunity to race in a dual meet setting before the championship season starts with SEC's and NCAA's. ... It will be fun. It will be high energy. We had a huge crowd for our Clemson meet and I think this will be the same way."

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Standing room only crowd at the meet vs. Clemson, which SC won

Let's prove him right, Gamecock fans! See y'all there!

WHO: Swimming & Diving vs. Georgia and Alabama

WHEN: Saturday, January 29th.
10:30 AM: Diving
11:30 AM: Senior Day (approximate time)
12:00 PM: Swimming

WHERE: Carolina Natatorium in the Blatt P.E. Center

TICKETS: Admission to all South Carolina Swimming & Diving meets is free.

- Brittany Lane

This Friday at 5:00 PM, the South Carolina Swimming & Diving teams will go up against rival Clemson for the last time at the Carolina Natatorium. Clemson is dropping their programs after next year so this is one of our last chances to beat the pants, or swimsuits in this case, off the Tigers in the water. It's also the team's first home meet of the season.

Friday is a big night, with this meet at 5:00 and the Women's Soccer team taking on Florida for the SEC Championship at 7:00, so come out and support our Gamecocks in these big moments!

- Brittany Lane, Spurs Up Blog


South Carolina Swimming & Diving opened up their season this past weekend in Nashville, beating both Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky.

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In her first collegiate meet, freshman swimmer Rachael Schaffer swam the sixth-fastest time in school history in the 200 Breaststroke AND the 200 Individual Medley (for you non-swimming folks, that's 50 yards of each of the four strokes in one race). Rachel also finished second in the 100 Breaststroke. Her great performance this weekend earned her the AgSouth Athlete of the Week honor.

A native of Baltimore, Rachael swims for the North Baltimore Aquatic Club (if that sounds familiar, it's also where Michael Phelps trains) and already has 2012 Olympic Trial qualifying times in four events.

Congrats, Rachael. Keep it up and Go Gamecocks!

- Brittany Lane, Spurs Up Blog

South Carolina Divers on ESPNU Today

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Taryn Zack and the South Carolina women's diving program will be featured on this week's edition of "SEC Weekly," which airs at 4 p.m. today on ESPNU. Zack finished fourth on both the 1- and 3-meter boards at the SEC Swimming & Diving Championships, which wrapped up Saturday in Athens, Ga.