Feb. 25, 2018
Indoor Meet #7 -- SEC Indoor Championships
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Josh Awotunde made South Carolina history on Sunday night as he captured the men's shot put title at the 2018 SEC Indoor Championships. Awotunde's night was one for the ages, and his top mark of 21.33m (69-11 ¾) is a new Gamecock track & field record.
Awotunde dominated the evening right from the opening round. His first effort of the night, 66-7 ¼, would have won the competition by nearly a foot, but the senior wasn't satisfied. On his final attempt, Awotunde threw 69-11 ¾, the longest shot put attempt in Carolina history, indoors or outdoors, by nearly three feet.
The Franklinville, N.J., native smashed his own indoor Gamecock record of 66-10 ½, set earlier this month at the Tiger Paw Invitational. He's the first Gamecock to win an individual SEC men's championship since 2010, when Elliott Haynie won both pole vault titles and Johnny Dutch took the outdoor 400m crown.
"This has been my goal -- to be an SEC champion -- since I got to South Carolina," Awotunde said. "On my recruiting visit, (the coaches) told me I had the capability to do it. Today, I finally put it together."
Awotunde wasn't the only Gamecock to stand on the podium Sunday night. Lissa Labiche captured the silver medal in the women's high jump. In her first-ever collegiate postseason event, the two-time Olympian cleared her first three heights without a miss and finished second overall, at 1.85m (6-0 ¾.)
Labiche's SEC podium performance is the fifth in Carolina history in the indoor women's high jump. She's the first Gamecock to medal in the event since Nakita Gray won the gold in 2016.
With her jump of 1.85m, Labiche set a new season best. Her mark ranks tied for seventh on the NCAA leaderboard this season and second in Carolina history.
Led by Awotunde and Saturday's long jump silver medalist, Yann Randrianasolo, the Gamecocks finished ninth on the men's side with 34 points. On the women's side, Carolina placed 12th, with 17 points. Alabama won the men's competition, and Arkansas took the trophy on the women's side.
Simon Gyllensten began the day in eighth position with three heptathlon events left, and the senior made the most of the second day. Gyllensten placed third in the pole vault and second in the 1000m to move up to sixth overall and score three points for the Gamecocks. His mark of 5,155 points ranks seventh in Carolina history.
Armand Woodley got off to a great start in the pole vault, clearing 16-8 ¾ on his first try. He was one of only seven competitors to clear the bar, and the mark ended up being good enough for fifth place. It's the second time the junior has scored on the conference level, including last season's outdoor meet.
Otis Jones ran his first career SEC final on Sunday night, taking part in the 800m. After winning his heat on Saturday, the junior came in fifth on Sunday, scoring four points. His time was 1:51.00.
Ncincilili Titi posted his best career SEC finish, coming in fourth in the 200m. Also a heat winner on Saturday, Titi battled back from a tough start Sunday to post a time of 20.80. After entering the weekend with the nation's second-best qualifying mark, 20.45, the senior will turn his attention to the NCAA Championships in two weeks.
Colleen Openshaw led the Carolina distance crew on Sunday night. Though she finished out of the points, her 5000m time of 17:27.66 ranks seventh in Carolina history.
FROM THE COACH
"(Josh) is a kid that was built by Carolina. He came in as a 58-footer and ends up throwing 69-11. I'm so proud of Coach Sergent. And Josh, he's a great student, he's had two operations since he's been here, and he just keeps doing great things. He's already graduated from college, and his work ethic is impeccable."
"The program has moved forward. That new facility has (boosted) our kids' confidence up. It's lined our practices up. Our injuries are down. Having to practice in difficult situations has set our kids back, but we've jumped (forward) a lot. We moved from being 13th in the women's standings last year up to 12th. We moved from being 11th last year on the men's side, and we moved up two spots. We're taking more people to nationals, and with chances to score."-- Head Coach Curtis Frye
UP NEXT FOR THE GAMECOCKS
The Gamecocks will learn their individual NCAA Indoor Championships fate on Tuesday, Feb. 27, with the final list of meet participants available no later than 10 p.m. ET that evening. The NCAA's annual indoor postseason championship runs March 9-10 in College Station.
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