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Five Gamecocks Headed to 2012 London Olympics

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Lashinda Demus Daegu.jpegFive Gamecocks are headed to London to compete in the 2012 Olympics. Opening Ceremonies for the games are this Friday.

Stay tuned to GamecocksOnline.com throughout the Olympics for updates on the Gamecocks in competition. You can follow all the Olympians from the SEC with the #SECOlympics12 hashtag on Twitter.


Track & Field:

Lashinda Demus (USA) - 400m Hurdles  *2011 World Champion
Jason Richardson (USA) - 110m Hurdles *2011 World Champion
Natasha Hastings (USA) - Relay Pool


Women's Basketball:

Iva Sliskovic (Croatia)
Ilona Burgrova (Czech Republic)  

He's a two-sport athlete, showing off his athleticism and speed on the gridiron with the Gamecock football team with some clutch plays on offense this past season, even a few times making the starting line-up. As soon as football season was over he switched gears to his second sport to finish out the year, re-joining the football squad briefly for spring practice.

You might have thought at first glance I was describing football and basketball star Bruce Ellington. And that would be a good guess... except I'm actually talking about freshman Damiere Byrd.

FB-11 Damiere Byrd vs. Kentucky.jpeg

Debuting on the football field this past season as a true freshman, Byrd is also an elite sprinter for the Gamecocks' track & field program. Fortunately for Byrd the seasons do not overlap as severely as basketball and football do for Ellington, but for a freshman adjusting to college, it can be a lot to manage.

"Fall is all football because track is in offseason workouts. During the winter [after the bowl game] I was full track; I lifted and practiced with track. Spring football started and I went to pretty much every practice and when we didn't have practice, I would go to track practice. Whenever we didn't have [football] weekend scrimmages, I'd go to track meets," Byrd explained. "The schedule actually worked out well. I only missed two meets, but they weren't major ones."

Time management can be tough on any first year college student, especially a student-athlete, but Byrd handled it admirably. The average day this year started with his classes in the morning, grabbing some lunch, then trying to get work done with about an hour and a half of study hall before heading to practices in the afternoon. After practice he usually headed back to the Dodie for dinner and more study hall to finish his schoolwork. 

TRK-12 Damiere Byrd.jpegHe competed in the 60-meter dash during the indoor track & field season, even earning SEC Freshman of the Week honors after placing sixth overall in the event at the prestigious Tyson Invitational. At the time, his 6.72 second mark was the No. 3 60-meter dash time for a freshman in the NCAA. He finished 7th overall in the event at the SEC Indoor Championships, one of just two freshmen in the league to make the finals.

For the outdoor season, Byrd has competed mostly on relay teams, helping the squad to a season best 39.92 second time in the 4x100 relay at the Pepsi Florida Relays. He was also on the 4x200 team that won their heat at the Penn Relays to advance to the Championship of America final where they finished third in front of a nationally-televised audience. The quartet ran 1:23.24, the seventh-fastest time in program history.

Being fast always came naturally to Byrd. Although he was a football player first, he started running at a young age too, playing pee wee football and running for a club track team in the summer.

"I actually started running track to get better at running for football and it just so happened that my first year I went to nationals and ended up getting a few medals. I just kept going after that," said Byrd.

Just being fast isn't enough to succeed in football though. You have to be "football fast".

"It's a little different," said Byrd. "You can't have football speed until you feel comfortable out playing on the field. I wouldn't be able to transfer that track speed if I wasn't comfortable with the plays and the playbook."

Byrd has been able to make the shift from high school to college this year as a true freshman, but thinks he'll be even better next year as a sophomore.

"In college I'm trying to learn more techniques and doing more quality practicing then the next day turn around and come out on the football field and still going 100% every day," said Byrd of the effort it takes to manage both sports. "This year I was taking everything day by day. Next year, I'll be able to know exactly what I have to do, how much time I have to put in to get things done so I can make it easier on myself."


Damiere Byrd and the Gamecocks are in Baton Rouge this weekend competing in the SEC Outdoor Championships for Track & Field. Follow along on Twitter with @GamecockTrack. You can catch Byrd again (if you're speedy) on the football field next fall.


Former South Carolina Track athlete and reigning World Champion in the 110-m hurdles, Jason Richardson, appeared on NBC's TODAY Show to talk about his hopes for the Olympic Games this summer in London. He also attempted to "teach" TODAY's Savannah Guthrie how to hurdle.  Richardson is among several former Gamecocks that will be looking to compete in London so keep your eye on the Olympics!

 

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



Follow Jason on Twitter: @JaiRich

This Week's Home Events: Baseball Hosts #1 Florida

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THIS WEEK IN GAMECOCK COUNTRY...

After tough road series last weekend, both baseball and softball return home to Gamecock Country to face SEC foes this weekend. Baseball will welcome top-ranked Florida for a three game series, Thursday through Saturday. Softball will host LSU for the weekend, with free Gamecock bandanas at each game while supplies last. Saturday's softball game is $1 Hot Dog Day. For Sunday's game, Junior Gamecock Club members and Little Leaguers can get $1 group admission rates. Cocky's Bounce House will be on hand and all kids can run the bases after the game. South Carolina Track & Field will host their primary home outdoor meet of the season with the Weems Baskin Invitational. 


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

#8 Baseball vs. Wofford - 7:00 p.m.
-Play Baseball Bingo for a chance to win a prize
-Official team posters and schedule cards


Thursday, March 22, 2012

#8 Baseball vs. #1 Florida - 7:30 p.m.
-Play Baseball Bingo for a chance to win a prize
-Official team posters and schedule cards


Friday, March 23, 2012

Track- Weems Baskin Invitational - TBA/All Day
-Official team posters

#48 Men's Tennis vs. #15 Ole Miss - 1:00 p.m.
-Official team posters
-Enter to win an autographed official team poster
*Men's Tennis went undefeated last week against three Palmetto State opponents - Clemson, College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina.

Softball vs. LSU - 6:00 p.m.
-Play Softball Bingo for a chance to win a prize
-Official team posters and schedule cards
-Free Gamecock Bandanas*
-Cocky's Bounce House
-Facebook Friday- Show the coupon from the Softball Facebook page at the game for a prize

Get to know sophomore Dana Hathorn in her Gamecock Spotlight:




#8 Baseball vs.#1  Florida - 7:00 p.m.
-Play Baseball Bingo for a chance to win a prize
-Official team posters and schedule cards


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Track- Weems Baskin Invitational - TBA/All Day
-Official team posters

#8 Baseball vs. #1 Florida - 1:00 p.m.
-Play Baseball Bingo for a chance to win a prize
-Official team posters and schedule cards

Softball vs. LSU - 2:00 p.m.
-Play Softball Bingo for a chance to win a prize
-Official team posters and schedule cards
-$1 Hot Dog Day
-Free Gamecock Bandanas*
-Cocky's Bounce House


Sunday, March 25, 2012

#35 Women's Tennis vs. Mississippi State - 1:00 p.m.
-Official team posters

Softball vs. LSU - 1:00 p.m.
-Play Softball Bingo for a chance to win a prize
-Official team posters and schedule cards
-Twitterific Sunday- Mention @GamecockSoftbll on gameday for a prize
-Free Gamecock Bandanas*
-Little League and Junior Gamecock Club Day (Get $1 group admission)
-Kids Run the Bases
-Cocky's Bounce House



Gamecocks on the road...

Women's Basketball - NCAA Tournament

#5 South Carolina vs. #4 Purdue - Monday, 7:20 p.m. ET
Second Round
TV: ESPN2, ESPN3.com
Radio: 1320 AM, GamecocksOnline.com live audio stream
Click here for more important info on TV/radio coverage for the game
Full game notes and preview


Baseball @ Furman (Fluor Field) - Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. TV: Sport South
Softball @ UNC - Wednesday, 5:00 p.m.  Listen Online
#35 Women's Tennis @ #20 Ole Miss - Friday, 3:00 p.m.
#48 Men's Tennis @ #11 Mississippi State - Sunday, 2:00 p.m.
Men's Golf @ Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate - Sunday - Tuesday

Louis Day to be Honored at Halftime vs. Vanderbilt

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Louis Day.jpegAt halftime of Saturday's game pay special attention and give a great round of applause to Track & Field's Louis Day, who will be recognized on the field. Day won both the SEC Sportsmanship Award and the NCAA National Sportsmanship Award for 2011 for a great act of sportsmanship and integrity at the SEC Indoor Track & Field Championships last February.

Day was competing in the weight throw competition. After his throw, Day realized immediately that event officials misread the distance of his throw, giving him an advantage that placed him into the nine-personal final. With the true distance of his throw, Day would not have made the finals.

"I knew as soon as they read my distance. I saw how far it was; it was a bad throw," said Day. I would've known if it had been a good throw, it felt wrong. When they announced it, I was like that's definitely not right."

Day alerted his coach, Mike Sergent, to the error. When the officials didn't correct the error on their own, Sergent officially protested Day's performance to ensure the true top nine throwers could compete for the SEC Championship. After a review, officials determined the most appropriate thing to do was to advance both Day and the true ninth place finisher, setting up a ten-person final.

"Although Louis did not win a championship during this event," said AD Eric Hyman, "his sportsmanship is that of a champion."

Day is a junior athletically but a senior in the classroom at South Carolina, majoring in Exercise Science. Day is planning on going to medical school and is interested in a career in sports medicine.

Day said that although he is a little nervous to be recognized in front of so many people on the field at Williams-Brice, he's also pretty excited. His parents are making the trip to Columbia from New York for the game. 

As for his teammates, Day says they have all been supportive of him and the sportsmanship award in their own ways. One teammate jokingly says, "it's the first time someone's been praised for not throwing far enough."


Athlete Spotlight - Shalonda Solomon

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Courtesy of USA Track & Field

Shalonda Solomon.jpegJudging by her humble personality, you wouldn't think Shalonda Solomon owns the fastest time in the world in 2011 in the 200 meters. When asked about the sport she loves, she talks about respect for her teammates, she speaks confidently about herself, and shows a strong Christian faith.

Due to her quiet demeanor, it may become easy for Solomon - a three-time NCAA Champion and 11-time All-American under Curtis Frye at South Carolina from 2005-07 - to get lost in the background. But her success on the track this season shows otherwise.

All of these traits and accomplishments will be on display when Solomon leads a deep and talented Team USA field into the 200m when the 2011 IAAF World Outdoor Track and Field Championships begin in Daegu, South Korea August 27-September 4.

And it's a loaded Team USA field to say the least. Just how deep is Team USA in the 200m? The Americans currently own 14 of the top 15 times run in the world this year; two of which Solomon is responsible for.

"You always hope for a clean sweep," Solomon said about Team USA's chances on the awards podium in Daegu. "We will go out there and represent Team USA with the best of our abilities. We just hope for the best."

And the best is primarily what Americans have done in the event so far in 2011. Solomon teams with Carmelita Jeter, Kimberlyn Duncan and Allyson Felix to give Team USA a realistic shot at a clean sweep in Daegu. Solomon, Jeter and Duncan are all ranked in the top three in the world, respectively, and Felix is the three-time defending World Champion in the event.

While none of it translates into results until competition begins, the resumes are impressive indeed.

"We have so much pride in representing the U.S.," Solomon said. "The people and the staff are amazing. When you put that USA on your chest, you are representing more than just yourself."

For Solomon, this trip to the World Championships not only comes well deserved, but has been a long time coming. As an American sprinter, she was consistently facing the best in the world and stiff competition for a spot on the world or Olympic teams. She was always in the mix, but couldn't quite make that first Team USA until 2011.

She was sixth in the 100m at the U.S. Outdoor Championships in 2009. She was seventh in the 200m in the Olympic Trials in 2008. And, as luck would have it, she placed second in the 200m at the U.S. Championships in both 2006 and 2010, but in seasons with no world or Olympic meet. However, following a strong season in the Diamond League in 2010 and into 2011, Solomon was poised to get over that barrier in her career.

She blistered the field at the 2011 U.S. Outdoor Championships in a personal best and world-leading time of 22.15 seconds to secure her spot in Daegu. As she crossed the finish line, it was a step into a new segment of her career.

"It was a huge step forward," Solomon said of the win at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. "It's truly a blessing since I have been in the mix for a long time. To say that I'm the 2011 U.S. champion is something they can never take away."

It was a huge step onto the world stage for Solomon. And while her current world ranking is something to be proud of, rankings aren't anything to be satisfied with, as any competitor will attest.

"You can't be satisfied," Solomon quickly stated. "You always have to try your best and do your best at all times. Anybody can be a champion at any time."

If the national title Solomon won in Eugene was a huge step forward, it is difficult to measure exactly how gratifying a world medal in Daegu would be. That's also something that will never be taken away from her.

"It would mean the world to me," she said about winning a medal at the World Championships. "Winning at U.S. Championships then to get a medal at the World Championships would be a huge stride forward." 
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 two 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!

Top Moments of 2010-11 #2.jpg

#2: LaKya Brookins Wins Second NCAA Championship with Record-Breaking 60-m Dash

LaKya Brookins ncaa champ cropped.jpegWhen I thought back over the past year to start thinking of ideas for this countdown, I knew senior sprinter LaKya Brookins would be very high on the list for winning her second National Championship in the 60-meter dash (her first was as a sophomore in 2009). National titles are pretty tough to top, you know? What I didn't fully comprehend at the time was how truly remarkable her year was when you look at it all together.

Back in mid-January, the Seneca, SC, native gave everyone a hint that she was headed for a special season after she posted an automatic NCAA qualifying time in the first meet. For those who may not be familiar with collegiate track & field, that means Brookins guaranteed herself a spot in the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships two months later with just one race.

But just because she was already qualified for NCAA's didn't mean Brookins was going to lay off, not even close. Brookins proceeded to post an automatic qualifying time in every single 60-meter race she ran all season, the only runner in that event to do so.

Another hint of what was to come was at the SEC Championships on February 27th. Brookins became the first back-to-back title winner in conference history. She blazed through the finish line with a time of 7.14, the third-fastest time in the world and top time in the NCAA at that point.

A few days before competition started at the NCAA Indoor Championships, in recognition of her stellar season so far, Brookins was named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Southeast Region Female Track Athlete of the Year. She is the first Gamecock to earn the award since Olympic gold medalist Natasha Hastings earned the honor in 2007.

On March 11th, day one of the NCAA Indoor Championships, Brookins threw down the gauntlet, cutting another hundredth of a second off her time and tying her own facility, school and meet records with a preliminary round winning time of 7.13.

The next day in the finals, Brookins would solidify her place in track & field history by crossing the finish line in a blistering 7.09 seconds, the fastest 60-m time in the world by a woman so far this year and a new facility, NCAA meet and school record. The time also tied a 10-year old collegiate record.

Re-live the moment with her:




Brookins followed up her amazing indoor season with more records during outstanding outdoor track & field season, in which she competed in the 100-m dash. On April 16th she ran the nation's fastest wind-legal time in the 100 at 11.10, an improvement on her personal best time and the second-fastest time ever run by a Gamecock. Brookins would go on to also be named the USTFCCCA Southeast Region Female Track Athlete of the Year for the outdoor season and finish sixth in the 100-m at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. She was also awarded the women's indoor track MVP and the Female Athlete of the Year by her peers at the annual Gamecock Gala.

Congratulations to LaKya on all her accomplishments and a big thank you to her for being such a great Gamecock!


Stay caught up on the Top Moments countdown. Only two more moments to go!

#3: The Gamecocks Take Down #1 Alabama

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

#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


Several Gamecock Pros Running at Penn Relays

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While the current South Carolina Track & Field squad competes at the prestigious Penn Relays this weekend, they will be joined by several Gamecock Track & Field alumni now running professionally.

The pros will be competing with an elite group in the 12th edition of USA vs. The World, which is also the first event of the 2011 Outdoor Visa Championships Series. The USA vs. The World races will be televised on tape delay on ESPN2 from 8-10 PM on Saturday, April 30th. You can see the rest of the pro line-up here.


Gamecocks scheduled to compete:

Jamaica:
Aleen Bailey

USA:
Johnny Dutch (4x400)

Miki Barber (4x100)
Lisa Barber (4x100)
Lashinda Demus (4x400)
Natasha Hastings (4x400)

Natasha Hastings.jpg
































Natasha Hastings competing at last year's Penn Relays


Go Gamecocks!!

-Brittany

delethea quarles.jpegGamecock Track & Field assistant head coach Delethea Quarles has been selected by USA Track & Field as an assistant coach for Team USA at the 2011 IAAF World Championships. Quarles will travel to Daegu, South Korea, in Fall 2011 to coach multi-event performers and jumpers at the international competition.
 
This is Quarles fifth time being selected as a Team USA coach, having previously worked with Team USA as head coach at the Pan American Junior Championship (2007) and as an assistant coach for the World Cup (2006), Pan American Championship (2005), and Team USA vs. the Netherlands (2002).

Quarles responded, "It is a tremendous honor to be selected to represent our country. South Carolina has prepared me well and I'm excited to represent our university in this capacity." Quarles shared that it gives her great personal pride as well to be involved since many of our former Gamecock Track & Field student-athletes continue to compete on the international level. South Carolina will be well represented on Team USA in 2011 by both Coach Quarles and our student-athletes.
 
South Carolina opens up the Indoor Track & Field season on January 14th, 2011, at the Virginia Tech Invitational. Outdoor Track & Field will start in the spring with the March 18th Shamrock Invitational in Conway. Go Gamecocks!



It's winning the school's first ever NCAA title in 2002.

It's alumni becoming Olympians and World Championships medalists.

It's having a nationally recognized program.

It's the Garnet Way.



Brittany Lane, Spurs Up Blog

Dutch Wins 400m Hurdles Nat'l Title

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South Carolina's storied track program added another national champion this weekend as junior Johnny Dutch claimed the 400-meter hurdles national title on Friday with a time of 48.75 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Here's some highlight video:


The State: One final leap

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dutch-state.jpgJohnny Dutch came to South Carolina to become a filmmaker and a hurdles champion.

He accomplished the former by producing and starring in a five-minute video in which Dutch's character morphs into a vampire on campus (search for 'Mordu' on YouTube).

As for the latter, Dutch hopes to rewrite the ending to a sequel of a track season that has played out remarkably similar to last year.

Read more: http://www.thestate.com/2010/05/27/1304733/one-final-leap.html#ixzz0p8thwP2r

brookins.jpg

If LaKya Brookins had not moved to Seneca during her sophomore year of high school, she might be participating in gymnastics or basketball instead of being one of the top sprinters in the country.

The only reason the USC junior started running track was because her new teammates at Seneca said they ran in the offseason to stay in shape for basketball.

Once she began learning the intricacies of running and realizing she was pretty good at it, Brookins gave up the other two sports.

Monday Musings from The Editor

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Monday Musings - Bracketolgy style:

No. 1 Seed - SEC play on the horizon for the baseball team

The South Carolina baseball team returned to winning ways last week with five straight wins in series sweeps of Valparaiso and Brown. The Gamecocks travel back to Fluor Field on Tuesday to face Furman. South Carolina is 4-0 all-time at the Greenville ballpark.

After hosting Davidson on Wednesday at Carolina Stadium, South Carolina opens Southeastern Conference action against Tennessee with a three-game series over the weekend at Carolina Stadium. The Vols are picked to finish in sixth in the SEC East and were 11-19 in league play and 26-29 overall in 2009.

Preseason All-Americans Cody Hawn and Blake Forsythe will be the Tennessee hitters to watch out as both players had strong offensive campaigns in 2009. Hawn became just the 10th Vol ever to win the team Triple Crown in 2009, leading the Vols in batting average (.364), home runs (22), RBIs (81), hits (72), doubles (15) and slugging percentage (.773). 

Forsythe started 53 of 55 games behind the plate for the Vols last spring, hitting .347 with 68 hits, 15 home runs and 46 RBIs in addition to leading the team with 40 walks and a .486 on-base percentage and collecting 19 multi-hit games and 13 multi-RBI contests. For more preview info on the Vols, read this pre-season outlook from SECSports.com.

No. 2 Seed - Downey racking up postseason awards

Devan Downey continues to pile up the hardware from his impressive senior season with the Gamecocks. After becoming the first Gamecock to win the league's scoring title, Downey was also named to the first-team All-SEC team by the league's coaches and by the media. The honor marks the third-straight season Downey has been a first-team choice by both the coaches and media. His selection marks just the second time a South Carolina player has been named to the AP first team in three seasons (BJ McKie was the last to do so).

Downey was also named to the league's All-Defensive team along with junior Sam Muldrow. The guard departs the program's as the school's all-time leader in steals. In addition, he was named to the USBWA All-District (III) squad, the Sporting News Fourth-Team All-American team and as a Yahoo! Sports Honorable Mention All-American.

You can hear Devan tonight on Inside the Roost with Athletics Director Eric Hyman and Derek Scott at 7 p.m.


No. 3 Seed - Track team finishes well at NCAA Indoor Championships

South Carolina's track & field teams posted strong performances at the NCAA Indoor Championships over the weekend in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The men earned their best placement in five years, placing 8th overall. It was the team's first top 10 finish since 2005. The women's team finished in 19th place - the 13th time in 14 years that the Gamecocks have finished in the top 20.

The Gamecocks transition to the outdoor season this weekend with the Shamrock Invitational at Coastal Carolina.

No. 4 Seed - Gamecocks return to proving grounds

After a brief hiatus for spring break, the football team resumes spring drills Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Gamecocks will practice twice this week (Tuesday and Friday) and are scheduled to scrimmage on Saturday at 10 a.m.  For more on Gamecock spring practice, click here.

Clarke clears final hurdle - The State

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Chris Dearing from The State has a feature in today's edition about South Carolina's first SEC champion in the pentathlon, KeKe Clarke. Click here to read.

Getting there wasn't easy. Clarke has battled hamstring and knee injuries, and there were plenty of times she thought about quitting. But with the encouragement of coaches and teammates, she was able to compete pain-free her final semester.

She made the most of her opportunity.

"I've thought about quitting so many times," Clarke said. "You know what you can do, but you can't because you are restricted with injuries. But I wanted everybody to remember me as a hard worker - even with what I've been through. I can still win and compete, and it finally showed."




Gamecocks at SEC Indoor Championships

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South Carolina finished the 2010 SEC Indoor Championships with three gold medalists as pole vaulter Elliott Haynie and 60m dash specialist LaKya Brookins earned wins Sunday to go along with the pentathlon title won by Kettiany Clarke. The titles were all SEC indoor firsts in each event for the Gamecocks.

The men's team finished fourth for the second straight season with 53 total points and five medals. The Gamecock women's team placed seventh overall with 53 points, two points shy of sixth, and earned a total of five medals over the weekend. Haynie earned gold in the pole vault at 17'7 ΒΌ (5.37m) and Brookins, the defending national champion in the 60m dash, won gold at a nation-leading 7.18.

Watch this interview with head coach Curtis Frye after the conclusion of the championships:


Watch an interview with KeKe Clarke - the first SEC pentathlon champion in South Carolina history.

Watch an interview with LaKya Brookins after she receives her gold medal in the 60 meter dash.

Watch an interview with Gamecock pole vaulters Elliott Haynie (gold medal), Marvin Reitze and Matt Shuler (combined bronze).

Watch an interview with Gamecock hurdlers Booker Nunley (silver) and Johnny Dutch (bronze).