Jan. 28, 2012
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By Miquel Jacobs
COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina track finished competition at the Rod McCravy Memorial - site of the upcoming SEC Indoor Championships - with two wins and strong performances across the board Saturday on the campus of the University of Kentucky.
"I think it will be a big benefit for them being here," South Carolina head coach Curtis Frye said of competing at the Nutter Field House. "They know where everything is, they know where the starting blocks and the officials are. They know where to warm-up and the time management from our hotel to the track. That's why we go to meets where we will hold championships. We can get the anxiety out of the way. That's what we do as coaches. We plan schedules to get our kids the best opportunity."
Taking advantage of an early opportunity was senior Marvin Reitze who cleared a personal collegiate best 17'9 ¼ (5.42m) in the pole vault to win the event, his second win of the week after also winning the Gamecock Indoor Open. Reitze's mark pushes him to second in the South Carolina all-time indoor record book.
Earning the second win of the day was the women's 4x400-meter relay team of Christal Green, Erika Rucker, Nadonnia Rodriques and Vashti Bandy. The foursome improved Carolina's top time this season by four seconds with the win at 3:39.21, pushing the relay team into the top 10 in the nation with a little over a month before NCAA bids are handed out. The men's relay team of Gravesande, Carter, Winfrey and Royster took fourth at 3:13.04.
"It's the best meet we've had this year," Frye said. "Marvin had a great meet and hit one of the best marks in school history. Coach Brown has done a great job with him. The second best performance was our women's 4x4. That puts them in the provisional zone, which is really good for Rucker, Green, Rodriques and Bandy. That's two freshmen, a sophomore and a senior, and they did a really good job. Even the `B' team did well with Amber Allen leading them off and some of the others running 55 seconds. We're certainly building some depth in our 4x4's. We need to be able to score in the quarter and the mile relays."
Damiere Byrd ran the fastest time in the nation for a freshman this year after placing second overall in the men's 60-meter dash at 6.76. Saturday marks just the second meet for the two-sport athlete. Sophomore Chris Royster placed third overall in the event at a personal best 6.80. The sprint duo then rebounded to earn top five finishes in the 200-meter dash with Royster taking second overall at 21.60 and Byrd placing fourth at 21.89. Freshman Chris Walker placed eighth (22.35) and Chris Maxwell finished 10th at 22.42.
"Byrd getting a second place finish in the 60-meter dash with a week and a half of practice, and then running 21.8 in the 200-meter, shows that he's starting to become an impact guy," Frye said. "His personal best is 6.70 and he ran 6.76. Those are good back-to-back runs (in the 60m and 200m). Royster had a good meet too. He PR'd at 6.80 and then ran 21.60, which is his second-best ever."
All-American Clayton Gravesande ran an early season best in the 400-meter dash at 47.91 to take second overall. He was followed in the top 10 by Andre Carter (7th, 48.57) and Eric Winfrey (8th, 48.61). Freshman Erika Rucker led the Gamecock women quarter milers with a second place finish at 54.66. Nadonnia Rodriques claimed fourth at 54.98 in her first competition in a year after injuring herself following the Texas A&M Challenge in January 2011.
Kierre Beckles and Chalese Davis both improved their times in the 60-meter hurdles with Beckles taking third in the finals at 8.37 and Davis taking seventh at 8.59. In the women's 60-meter dash, Kelsey McCorkle placed 12th in the finals at 7.69.
Louis Day took third overall in the men's shot put at 53'2 ¾ (16.22m). His mark was a season best as the redshirt junior continues to prepare for the upcoming SEC meet in anticipation of scoring for the Gamecocks. On the women's side, Katie Vuckovich matched her season best mark at 47'4 ½ (14.44m) to place sixth overall in the women's shot put.
"We had a great shot put today," Frye said. "Louis got going which is really good for us. Those are the SEC level performances we need. Clayton Gravesande is a little disappointed after placing second at 47.90, but his breakthrough is coming. Every week we challenge him. He's gotten a win, a third and now a second. And Kierre Beckles in the hurdles at 8.26 was nice. For her third week out, this is good after coming off of surgery."
School-record holder Jeannelle Scheper took fourth in the women's high jump at 5'9 ¼ (1.76m), and freshman Sarah Graham cleared a season best 5'5 ¼ (1.66m) to place 10th overall in the event. In the other field event of the day, Radiance Basden placed sixth overall at 39'3 ¼ (11.97m) with Ceci Kryst taking 13th.
Redshirt junior Robert Razick upped her personal best in the mile run for the second time in three weeks after taking eighth at 4:12.08. Vince DePiano hit a season best time of 4:25.66 to place 26th overall in the event. Both also ran in the 800-meter run in addition to the trio of Drew Ricci, Kevin Keating and Adam King who all ran season bests in the event. Ricci paced the Gamecocks in 15th at 1:56.08, and Keating took 23rd at 1:57.35.
In the women's distance events, sophomore Liz Locke ran twice with a season best mark in the mile run (5:14.56) in addition to running 2:22.97 in the 800-meter run. Freshman Meredith Mill competed in the 3,000-meter run and finished 21st at 10:09.87.
Competition resumes Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. with the women's high jump in the final day of competition at the Rod McCravy Memorial Classic.
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