Gamecock Track Prepares For SEC Indoor Championships|
Feb. 23, 2012
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By Miquel Jacobs
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina track and field teams are headed to Lexington, Ky., to compete at the SEC Indoor Championships - the premier conference championship meet in the country. The meet will be held Friday, Feb. 24 to Sunday, Feb. 26 at the Nutter Field House on the campus of the University of Kentucky, who last hosted the conference meet in 2009 when the Gamecock men placed fourth and the women placed fifth.
The SEC Indoor Championships will air as part of a 90-minute show on ESPNU on Sunday, March 11 from 5-6:30 p.m. ET.
GAMECOCK TOP THREE ATHLETES
MEN'S TEAM PREVIEW
Despite the youth on the team, captains Day and Reitze both insist on a theme to ensure a successful first SEC meet - relax and don't be afraid to compete on one of the biggest stages in collegiate track and field.
"My first SEC's I didn't do too well because I felt like I competed kind of scared," Day said. I want to tell the young athletes to not be scared and just have faith in what your coaches have done and what you've done. Just don't be afraid or second guess yourself. If they do that, they'll do well."
"Overall just be ready," Reitze added. "It's OK if you're a freshman. You're still able to score. You don't have to be a junior or senior. Just go out, compete and try to be your best. Don't be scared because of other people that have the experience. It might be your first SEC's, and it's a big meet with good athletes out there, but I think we have potential as a team overall to score in a couple of events."
Reitze's advice shouldn't ring hollow either. The pole vaulter has medaled at every SEC Indoor Championship that he has competed in, taking bronze medal honors as a freshman in 2009 and as a sophomore in 2010 before missing the 2011 season due to injury. Finally healthy for an indoor season again after undergoing knee surgery in the summer of 2010, Reitze has been a bright spot for the men's program having finishes first or second in every meet this season under the guidance of Coach Kevin Brown. He enters the conference meet with a top mark of 17'9 ¼ (5.42m), the ninth-best mark in the country heading into this weekend.
"I want to win the SEC's," Reitze said. "I think that's what I can do as a senior. I did OK my last SEC performances, but I think I can do better now due to the fact that I had a good fall practice and my season is going really well right now. We made tiny changes in my pole vault technique. My warm-ups have always been good, I just wasn't able to show it in competition, so I hope at SEC's I'll be able to do that."
One of his co-captains, Louis Day, has also made a name for himself at the SEC Indoor Championships, although his most recent accolade came at last year's meet when a measure of integrity made national news and earned him SEC and NCAA Sportsman of the Year honors. In the weight throw competition last year, Day informed the officials that they misread one of his marks with what would have been a massive PR to send him into the finals in an event that he doesn't even consider his signature event. Since that weekend in Arkansas, his name has been synonymous in the track world with sportsmanship, an honor that he appreciates but hopes will change - in a good way.
"It's good to be known as someone who did something for their sport," Day said. "I love this sport and I'm in it because I love it and love to do it. I definitely want to make a name for myself though. I don't want to be remembered only as a person who was a good sportsmanship person. It's good to show sportsmanship, but I also want to be remembered as one of the best throwers at this university, and I want to perform well at the SEC Championship."
Competition begins for the men's team Friday when Chris Sharp begins the two-day men's heptathlon competition.
WOMEN'S TEAM PREVIEW
Perhaps the most intriguing story of the season has been that of 17-year old sophomore Jeannelle Scheper, the 2011 St. Lucia Junior Athlete of the Year who has gone on this season to twice set the school-record in the women's high jump with a top mark of 6'0 (1.83m). She is looking to become just the second Gamecock woman to medal in the high jump at an SEC Championship (indoor or outdoor), following in the footsteps of Monica Bozinski's bronze medal finish at the 2005 SEC Indoor Championships. With a mark that ranks fourth in the NCAA, the future is bright and that brightness may begin this week in Kentucky.
Another athlete who has used 2012 as a springboard is senior Radiance Basden who took the SEC lead in the triple jump as was named the SEC Field Athlete of the Week after her winning performance at the Tyson Invitational at 42'3 ¼ (12.88m). Basden has been a tireless worker for the Gamecocks in her four seasons, competing in the triple jump, 400-meter hurdles and 4x400-meter relay, but seemingly broke out of nowhere to become a conference and national threat.
"This season has been a good season," Basden said. "Usually indoors I end up getting hurt in someway minor or major. I've had a lot of setbacks and pain, but I feel like those setbacks and pain have fueled my passion to try and go get it this year and go for everything as far as SEC's, NCAA's and school records. I just want to make myself proud so I can say I left a legacy here."
That legacy is close to being met. With a mark that currently ranks in the top seven in the NCAA, Basden is on track to earn her first ever individual bid to the NCAA Championships after twice earning regional bids in both the 400-meter hurdles and triple jump. The prospect of continuing her progression to ensure her bid to Idaho is a tough one for a senior knowing that there is no 2013 season to rebound to, but it is a prospect that Basden has not let engulf her mentally as post-season approaches.
"Ultimately it does stick in my mind," Basden said of a potential NCAA bid. "You always have to have that one goal and set that standard to it, but you can't linger on it. I feel like it fuels me to actually want to be there. Individually is an honor, so that would be awesome to do, but in the back of my head I do little steps and little goals to accomplish that."
The final SEC leader for the women's team is senior Kierre Beckles, a junior college transfer last season who immediately made her mark at South Carolina, placing fourth at SEC indoor and second at SEC outdoors en route to All-America honors for both the indoor and outdoor seasons. The Barbados national record holder in the 100-meter hurdles has found a run of good form heading into conference championships, highlighted in her last time on the track when she hit a USC Field House facility record in the 55-meter hurdles at 7.55 to move to the top of the league and fourth in the nation in the high hurdle event.
"My goal this week really is to run 8.00 or 7.90 so I can auto for nationals," Beckles said. "I just put in work every day training, running on the beach and doing weight room twice a day with light stuff and heavy stuff. I think all I have to do is execute everything coach has told me to do, and I will be fine. "