Jan. 12, 2018
Track & Field at the Navy Winter Invitational
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The University of South Carolina track & field team begins its 2018 season on Saturday, Jan. 13 at the Navy Winter Invitational. The United States Naval Academy hosts the meet, with Saturday's action beginning at 11 a.m. ET.
Carolina has spent the week training in Annapolis and touring local historical sites in anticipation for their first competition of 2018. When the meet begins, Carolina and the hosts from Navy will be joined by George Mason, Mount St. Mary's, Penn and Wake Forest.
FROM THE COACH
"It's always a fresh start for everyone. At this point, everyone is undefeated. They're thrilled and excited and nervous -- all of those adjectives fit in to describe how we feel about this year. We have a large amount of anticipation from those who have experience at the conference and national level. Those are things that are important to us." -- Head Coach Curtis Frye
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS (Click to Expand)
GAMECOCKS RANKED 17th IN PRESEASON USTFCCCA POLL
The South Carolina women's team is ranked 17th in the USTFCCCA Preseason National Poll, its highest preseason listing since 2009. Four members of the Gamecocks are ranked individually by the USTFCCCA: Lissa Labiche (High Jump -- 4th), Aliyah Abrams (400m -- 6th), Rougui Sow (Long Jump -- 6th) and Precious Holmes (400m -- 11th).
The Gamecock men hold down the No. 34 spot in the preseason, with senior Ncincilili Titi (3rd - 200m) leading the way. Other Gamecocks ranked on the men's side include Josh Awotunde (11th -- Shot Put), Isaiah Moore (14th -- 60mH), Tye Williams (19th -- High Jump) and Eric Favors (33rd -- Shot Put)
The USTFCCCA's preseason rankings are compiled using each returning athlete's top collegiate marks from the 2017 season. In certain cases, collegiate marks from before 2017 are applied, and transfers are eligible with a qualifying junior college or international mark. True freshmen are not eligible for the preseason poll, and marks must come from indoor competition. A complete listing of the marks used to determine this week's poll can be found here.
FLOTRACK LISTS TITI AS NATION'S TOP 200m SPRINTER
University of South Carolina senior Ncincilili Titi was ranked as FloTrack's No. 1 200m runner in the nation, the publication announced as part of its preseason event rankings. Titi returns for one more collegiate year after qualifying for the NCAA Championships both indoors and outdoors in 2017. The Butterworth, South Africa, native's outdoor time of 20.14 was the sixth-fastest qualifying mark in the nation last year, and he earned a pair of All-America finishes as a junior.
Titi wasn't the only Gamecock listed in FloTrack's preseason individual rankings. On the women's side, two-time All-American Rougui Sow is listed fourth in the long jump after earning a pair of sixth-place finishes nationally last season. For the men, Isaiah Moore is ranked eighth according to FloTrack in the 60m hurdles and Josh Awotunde holds the same ranking in the shot put.
ALL-AMERICAN GROUP READY FOR MORE ACCOLADES IN 2018.
The Gamecocks return five 2017 Indoor All-Americans for the start of the 2018 season. For the women's Aliyah Abrams and Precious Holmes are back after leading the Gamecocks to a ninth-place finish in the 4x400m at last season's NCAA Indoor Championships, and Rougui Sow finished sixth last season in the long jump indoors before duplicating that feat in the outdoor season.
On the men's side of things, Josh Awotunde is a national title contender in the shot put after finishing fifth at the NCAA Indoor Championships a year ago. Ncincilili Titi was also a first-team All-America finisher after placing eighth in the 200m.
Sow and Titi went on to earn All-America status outdoors last season, providing plenty of momentum heading into the new year. 2017 Outdoor All-Americans Maiya Dendy (4x100m), Isaiah Moore (110mH), Milan Parks (4x100m) and Tye Williams (high jump) are also back in Garnet and Black this year.
GAMECOCKS ADD OLYMPIC EXPERIENCE TO 2018 ROSTER
South Carolina's women's roster got a huge influx of talent for the new season when two-time Olympian Lissa Labiche joined the program over the winter break. Labiche represented Seychelles at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics, and she's also a two-time African Championships winner in the high jump.
Labiche is one of two past Olympians on the current Gamecock roster. Junior Aliyah Abrams represented Guyana in Rio, running the 400m, and head coach Curtis Frye led the USA sprinters and hurdlers at the most recent Olympic Games.
WILLIAMS LOOKS TO LEAP INTO NATIONAL TITLE PICTURE
Few Gamecocks saw as much improvement in 2017 as high jump specialist Tye Williams. The Clyo, Ga., native went over seven feet for the first time in the indoor season and narrowly missed a bid to the NCAA Indoor Championships. That progression continued outdoors, where Williams set a new program record at the Penn Relays, jumping 7-4 ½, and he went on to finish fourth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Now a senior, Williams' mark of 7-4 ½ ranks tops in the nation among returning student-athletes. After another offseason of improvement, Williams has the goal of standing atop the NCAA podium in 2018.
ONE MOORE YEAR FOR CAROLINA'S TOP HURDLER
Isaiah Moore advanced to an NCAA final for the first time as a junior, finishing eighth in the nation outdoors in the 110m hurdles. Though he'll have to wait a couple of month to compete at his favored distance, the Burlington, N.C., product has big goals indoors after missing an NCAA berth in the 60mH by just .04 seconds last year. An SEC scorer a year ago, Moore hopes to be a factor at the conference meet again this season while also securing a Nationals bid.
SOW ENTERS 2018 WITH RECORDS IN SIGHT
French international Rougui Sow joined the Gamecocks right before the 2017 season and acclimated very quickly to the collegiate schedule, improving as the indoor calendar went along and ending up sixth nationally in her favored event, the long jump. The milestones continued outdoors for Sow, who set a new school record at the Spec Towns Invitational -- 22-0 ¾ - before again finishing sixth at the NCAA meet.
Sow enters 2018 with a full offseason of training in the Carolina program, and that should benefit the junior greatly heading into a new year. Perhaps first on the agenda is a bid at the indoor Carolina long jump record; Sow's top mark from last season, 21-2 1/2, is just a few inches short of the 21-8 achieved by current record-holder Antoinette Wilks in 2001.
NEWCOMERS SET FOR GAMECOCK DEBUTS
Head coach Curtis Frye and his staff welcome a talented group to Carolina in 2018, and the group has high ambitions for their first season in Columbia. Leading the way is Lissa Labiche, who is an instant NCAA title contender in the high jump after appearing at the last two Olympics. 2017 USTFCCCA National Division III Female Junior College Athlete of the Year Tatyana Mills, 2017 NJCAA All-American jumper Hanifah Abdulqadir, two-time Illinois Gatorade Athlete of the Year KD Young and 13-time Alabama state champion Caitlyn Little are other names to watch at the outset of the women's season.
On the men's roster, Trinidad & Tobago native Darren Alfred, Guyana standout Arinze Chance and Barbados product Rivaldo Leacock each bring international experience in the middle distances, with Alfred making the 400m finals at the 2017 Universiade. USC Upstate transfer Patrick Jamison won the Atlantic Sun Conference title in the 400m last season, while freshmen Kaden Briggs and Austin Story earned high school state championships before signing with Carolina.
UP NEXT FOR THE GAMECOCKS
The full Gamecock squad will be back in action Jan. 19-20 at the Clemson Invitational in Clemson, S.C. The Gamecocks combined for 10 event victories last season at the event.
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