Gamecocks get set for 113th annual Penn Relays
April 25, 2007
THIS WEEK: The Gamecock track and field teams are preparing for the 113th running of the Penn Relays at Franklin Field this weekend in Philadelphia. Penn Relays will be shown live on ESPN2 at 1 pm on Sat., April 28 with portions of the meet and USA vs. The World relays shown as well. The USC women are currently ranked No. 3 by the USTFCCCA and No. 4 by Trackwire.
Results for this weekend can be found on www.uscsports.com or thepennrelays.com.
Penn Relays will feature the nation's No. 1 teams in Florida State (men) and LSU (women). In addition - it's a who's who of college track and field -- you name it, they will be there. The meet will include on the women's side: Texas, Michigan, Georgetown, Tennessee and UNC. On the men's side: FSU, Arkansas, Texas, Michigan, Kentucky, LSU and Auburn are just a few of the teams expected to run at Penn.
"Penn Relays is the largest audience in track and field," said USC Head Coach Curtis Frye earlier this week, who is in his 11th year at the Gamecock helm. "It's run in one of the heaviest populated areas of the USA and the fans at Penn Relays are excited about track and field like maybe nowhere else in the world. More athletes have participated in Penn Relays than all other track and field meets combined. It's huge! If you didn't run at Penn, you just got left out. Every kid wants to run at Penn Relays. Our athletes really enjoy running there. If we were to only have one meet a year and let our athletes pick it, the majority of them would pick Penn Relays."
On the women's side, USC and ASU were the pre-season favorites to win the NCAA title outdoors, but Carolina has since suffered through an injury-plagued season. Senior 400m specialist Stephanie Smith is not expected to compete (hamstring) and hurdler Ronnetta Alexander is battling quad problems. In addition, last year's NCAA 200m champion Shalonda Solomon has been battling a hip injury and only opened in the 100m last weekend and the 200m two weeks ago. Finally, last year's 100m NCAA champion Amberly Nesbitt has `retired' due to an arthritic foot condition and off-season surgery. She plans to graduate a year early and attend medical school in the fall.
But with all that said if USC can get Alexander healthy with Solomon now running well Coach Frye looks for the Gamecocks to be in the mix for a number of relay titles. "On the women's side, the shuttle hurdle relay, the 4x400m relay and the 4x200m relay are relays we should be very competitive in with a healthy Ronnetta. We will also be competitive in the 4x100m relay for the women.
"Thomas Hilliard should excel at both hurdle races (110m hurdles and 400m hurdles) and we will run a strong 4x400m relay on the men's side. The men will also compete in the 4x100m relay, the sprint medley and the 4x800m relay and hope for the best," continued Frye. "Thomas, Jussi and Krystal will run the intermediate hurdles and I look for Thomas and Chiquita to run well in the 110m and 100m hurdle races.
"Shalonda Solomon and Natasha Hastings should both run well with whoever runs on the 4x100m relay, the 4x200 relay and the 4x400m relay. Shalonda looked good in opening outdoors in the 100m this past weekend."
The women's 4x400m relay should be strong favorites this weekend, winning 12 of the 13 races its entered this season - falling only once to LSU at the SEC Indoor Championship.
HOMERS: South Carolina features 15 men and women from the tri-state area including the newest member of the Gamecock women's squad, Krystal Cantey, who came to Carolina in January. Cantey looks forward to running at Penn Relays and has many memories as this is her sixth time at Franklin Field. Cantey's 4x400m relay team won the Tri-States relay title her sophomore year at Winslow Township High School. Cantey will run the 400m hurdles and with the 4x400m relay. She ran on USC's indoor NCAA title winning 4x4.
As far as the 15 Gamecock tri-state athletes competing, see the following list:
Krystal Cantey, Winslow Township
Erik Heyman, Westwood
Twana Watkins, Newark
Trier Young, Neptune
David Zaycek, Manasquan
Ronnetta Alexander, Williamsville
Johnny Baez, Nyack
Nikeshia Brown, Hempstead
Natasha Hastings, Rosedale
Keith Hinnant, Bay Shore
Ray Miley, Brooklyn
Keith Romero, Albany
Becky Woods, Galway
Lisa McKinney, Downington
Emily Pease, Moon Township
REGIONAL QUALIFIERS: The women have already qualified 16 individuals for the NCAA Regional Championships in six events plus two relays. On the men's side, the Gamecocks have qualified nine individuals in seven events for the NCAA Regionals plus the 4x400m relay. Last year the women won their second East Region title and the men finished a program-high third.
A-TOP THE SEC LEADER BOARDS: Natasha Hastings (400m) and Precious Akins (discus) are atop the leader board this week on the SEC Top Performers list. If the meet were held today, just based on times/marks submitted, USC's women would win two gold medals (Hastings, Akins); two silver medals (4x400m relay; 400m hurdles, Cantey) and four bronze medals (100m, Solomon; 200m, Hastings; 100m hurdles, Martin; 400m hurdles, Martin)
The men are led by Thomas Hilliard, who sits at No. 4 in the 110m hurdles (13.70) and No. 4 in the 400m hurdles (50.49). USC's men have 16 ranked in the top 15 plus its 4x400m relay which is No. 5.
Solomon will be running at her sixth Penn Relays. Her high school team, Long Beach Poly, won the 4x400m relay one year during high school. They got third in the record-setting 4x100m relay during her prep career as well. Her favorite Penn Relays memory from prep career was when she ran the 4x4 and ran the anchor. She remembers the Jamaican team coming on her and she `had that gear and I just went and we won!'. She also really enjoyed seeing her high school team there her freshman year at South Carolina and can't wait to see them run again this year!
Hastings' has run at Penn Relays seven times, including four times in high school. Her 4x400m relay team (A. Philip Randolph Campus) was the first East Coast school to run under 3:40 at Penn Relays. "I will never forget the crowd chanting `USA! USA! USA!' for our relay when we ran that fast. We didn't win - a team from Jamaica did - but it was so great to hear all the cheering."
GAMECOCKS' HONORED AT ANNUAL SPORTS BANQUET: South Carolina held its annual All-Sports Banquet on Mon., April 23 and a number of Gamecocks' brought home some hardware!
Co-awards were given out for the Female Athlete of the Year. Track and Field's Natasha Hastings and last year's recipient, volleyball's Shonda Cole earned the honors. Hastings is the reining 400m Indoor champion and set the collegiate record, in addition to being a member of the 4X4 NCAA Champion team (Indoors). A two-time National Athlete of the Week, Hastings also holds the school record in the 400m (Outdoors). She was also named Academic All-District Team and is a member of the South Carolina Honors College.
Freshman Krystal Cantey was named the Female Rookie of the Year after her break-out performances in the 400m hurdles and with the 4x400m relay. All-SEC pole vaulter Dan McKenzie was named the Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year with his stellar work in the classroom.
The Male SEC Community Service Postgraduate Scholarship was awarded to stand-out hurdler Thomas Hilliard.
REWIND A MONTH: This season indoors the women finished tied for 10th at the NCAA Indoor Championships - it's seventh straight year in the top 10 indoors. The women's race to the title was headlined by Region Athlete of the Year Natasha Hastings not only winning the 400m NCAA title, but also setting the collegiate record in the event (50.80). Hastings ran the anchor leg of USC's NCAA champion 4x400m relay which also featured Stephanie Smith, Krystal Cantey and Brandi Cross.
The Gamecock men finished 25th at the NCAA Indoor meet. Thomas Hilliard finished a surprising sixth in the 60m hurdles. In addition to Hilliard's leg on the bronze-medal winning 4x400m relay, Ray Miley, Quentin Moore and Keith Hinnant also ran legs.