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Gamecock Track Opens Season at Kentucky Invitational
<b>Competition begins Friday, Jan. 16</b>
Competition begins Friday, Jan. 16

Jan. 15, 2009

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COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina track and field programs open the 2009 season this weekend when they travel to Lexington, Ky., for the Kentucky Invitational at the E.J. Nutter Fieldhouse. The Gamecocks men and women's teams carry identical No. 16 rankings and will get a chance to compete at the facility that will hold the SEC Indoor Championships later this year.

The meet begins Friday with field events and features a competitive field of five ranked men's teams and six ranked women's teams. On the men's side, ranked competitors include No. 4 Florida, No. 9 Louisville, No. 11 Kentucky and No. 20 Georgia. On the women's side, ranked competitors include No. 4 Tennessee, No. 13 Florida, No. 20 Miami (Fla.), No. 22 Kentucky and No. 25 Louisville.

"Eight of the 10 SEC schools will be there in addition to a few programs from the ACC and Big 10 so we know this will be a strong meet," South Carolina head coach Curtis Frye said. "The rankings didn't come out as high as we had hoped with both teams entering at No. 16, but at the same token Track & Field News had our team as high as No. 2. I'm not sure that we're there yet this year, but we have a good team and our men can be a top 10 team."

The Gamecock men will compete in 11 events with a strong reliance on a solid group of returners, including All-American and top-ranked Jason Richardson in the 60-meter hurdles. Also competing in the event will be NCAA qualifier Johnny Dutch and 2008 World Junior Championships silver medalist Booker Nunley. A strong core of throwers will compete with Jason Cook (shot put, weight throw), Michael Zajac (weight throw, discus) and David Zaycek (shot put, weight throw, discus) headlining the returnees. The men also return the reining SEC Champion 4x400m relay team with possible runners including Aaron Anderson, Quentin Moore and transfer Obakeng Ngwigwa. Rounding out the returning All-Americans are Lamar Markett (60m, 200m), Johnathan Hancock (60m) and sixth-ranked Antonio Sales (200m, 60m).

"On the men's side, we're looking at our two Jason's to lead things for us in Jason Cook and Jason Richardson," Frye said. "Cook had a good training week down in Florida. This is a big throwers meet, especially with Kentucky, which has produced some good throwers. We're expecting Jason Richardson to open up in a big fashion for us. Another one to look out for is Johnathan Hancock in the 60m. Pole vault is one event that we have a top transfer in Elliott Haynie, but he's not eligible indoors this year so we'll look at some of the other kids. One is freshman Marvin Reitze who didn't go down to Disney with us last week so he's a week behind. It will be interesting to see how he performs with the short take-off."

The Gamecock women will compete in 14 events, led by five-time All-American and second-ranked Brandi Cross in the 400m. Other returning sprinters include All-Americans, Lakya Brookins (60m), Porche Byrd (400m), Gabrielle Glenn (200m) and Shayla Mahan (60m, 200m). Brookins, Mahan and Glenn are all ranked in the 60m dash. Carolina also welcomes redshirt freshman Breehana Jacobs (60m, 200m) and true freshman Nadonia Rodrigues (400m). Redshirt senior Ronnetta Alexander returns after missing the 2008 season and has battled injuries, however she is now slated to compete in the 60-meter hurdles along with Trier Young. Other top competitors this weekend will include NCAA qualifiers Aimee Kodat (shot put, discus), Sallie Gurganus (pole vault) and Liza Todd (pole vault).

"On the women's side, Brandi Cross, Shayla Mahan, Gabby Glenn and Porche' Byrd are some of our top kids we'll be looking to this week," Frye said. "We have a lot of young kids and we've battled injuries, but this is still a team that can be a national team. Aimee Kodat is another one that has continued to progress in the throwing events. We also like the improvement among the vaulters as well."

Other teams competing include Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Eastern Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Marshall, Middle Tennessee State, Ohio State, Ole Miss, UCF, Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky.



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