July 8, 2005
Columbia, S.C. - When reflecting back on the 2005 USC Track and Field season, one would find that Head Coach Curtis Frye, his staff and the Gamecock athletes have a lot to be proud of. Having lost a couple of their best athletes on both the men's and women's teams to professional careers, the Gamecocks continued to strive forward and make their presence known in the SEC and NCAA.
During an indoor season plagued with injuries, the men's team still found their way to the top of the performance charts. Ranked throughout the indoor season in events such as the 200m dash, 60m hurdles and the 4x400m relay, the men's team entered the top-25 poll at No. 24 and remained in the poll with a ranking as high as No. 22 for three consecutive weeks.
Highlighting the season for the men's team was the dynamic performances of senior Rodney Martin. Having broken both of the school's indoor and outdoor 200m records, Martin ended his senior season in Carson, Calif. as the fifth fastest American in the 200m dash at the USATF Outdoor Championships.
The first noteworthy performance of Martin that set the tone for the rest of the year was his race against some of the nation's best sprinters in the Tyson 200m Invitational during the indoor season at the Randal Tyson Track Facility in Fayetteville, Ark. Martin, who broke the indoor school record with a time of 20.67, finished third in the event on national television.
Junior Greig Cryer, who suffered with a hamstring injury all indoor season, put the past behind him and stepped up his performance for the SEC Indoor Championship. Finishing third in the long jump, Cryer put the first points on the board for the Gamecocks, leading the way for the Gamecocks who finished the championship in seventh place with 42.50 points. Freshman hurdler Jason Richardson ran the fourth fastest time in school history in the 60m hurdles with a time of 7.75, earning third place, while freshman jumper Derek Pressley made his first SEC Championship appearance leaping 48'10 _ in the triple jump to earn his first conference points.
With strong performances by Martin and Richardson, the Gamecocks finished the indoor season 19th in the NCAA. Both first time All-Americans, Martin finished third in the 200m dash, while Richardson made his presence known in the NCAA with a third place finish in the 60m hurdles.
The outdoor season, however, saw even more success for the Gamecocks. Martin this time opened the season ranked in the 200m dash, while Richardson was expected to be among the top hurdlers in the country, ranked in the 110m and 400m hurdles. Entering the competition early in the season was junior transfer Leroy Dixon, who joined Martin in the 100m and 200m rankings throughout the outdoor season.
Dixon and Martin first showed their competitiveness in the 100m dash at the Tennessee Sea Ray Relays in April when the two ran 10.30 and 10.25, respectively in the final, earning third and first places. Dixon returned later in the season to run 10.19 at the East Regional in New York, a personal best that would take him to his first NCAA Outdoor Championship in Sacramento, Calif.
Richardson, who had a great start to his collegiate career, continued his success leading the men's team with two top five finishes at the 2005 Penn Relays. Richardson, who finished fourth in the 400m hurdles, finished second in the 110m hurdles with a time of 13.76, the fourth fastest time in school history, while also running the lead off leg of the 4x200m relay that finished fourth with a time of 1:23.06.
In the field, pole vaulter Dan McKenzie also made his mark in the SEC during the outdoor season. With a personal best performance at rival Clemson, McKenzie earned SEC Athlete of the Week honors after leaping a height of 16'6 _ for first place and a regional qualifying mark at the Orange and Purple Classic.
At the SEC Outdoor Championship, sophomore thrower Tyler Trout showed that hard work does pay off. Trout earned the first points for the Gamecocks with a personal best performance in the hammer of 173'3 for eighth place. Freshman thrower Joseph Schroeder joined Trout among the field scorers with a sixth place finish in the javelin, while Dixon and Martin continued to add points in the short sprints. However, among the top highlights for the men's team was the outstanding 800m performance by junior William Emase. The personal best time of 1:48.23 landed Emase in fourth place, scoring for the first time at SECs and earning a trip to the East Regional.
Sprinters Dixon, Martin and 2004 Olympian Adrian Durant, as well as Emase and Richardson, led the Gamecocks to a fourth place finish, ahead of Clemson, in the NCAA East Regional Championship in New York City. The highlight of the competition, though, was Cryer's long jump performance of 25'1 _ that won the East Regional title, the program's first regional title that earned Cryer a trip to Sacramento for the NCAA Championship.
At NCAAs, Martin became the first Gamecock to receive All-American honors in the 100m dash since Terrence Trammell in 1999, finishing seventh in the event. Martin returned for the 200m semifinal to break the USC outdoor record, running 20.43 and advancing to the final. The previous record, held by Trammell, was 20.45 set in 1999. Martin ended the championship with All-American honors in both the 100m and 200m dashes, while Richardson claimed his second All-American honor with an impressive personal best performance of 13.50 in the 110m hurdles, earning another NCAA third place finish. The Gamecocks concluded the season finishing 26th at the NCAA Outdoor Championship.
The women's team, also plagued by injuries during the indoor season, still remained among the nation's top track and field teams throughout the season. With All-American sophomore hurdler Ronnetta Alexander and All-American senior jumper Chelsea Hammond on medical redshirts, the Gamecocks had to step up their game to remain in the nation's top five.
Starting off the season ranked No. 4, the Gamecocks opened the indoor season with impressive performances at Virginia Tech, followed by a second place finish ahead of rival Clemson at the Clemson Invitational. With the indoor season kicking into full swing, the Gamecocks traveled to New York City for the New Balance Invitational at the Armory where freshman Natasha Hastings was among the top highlights of the competition. With an impressive homecoming performance, the New York native finished runner-up in the 400m dash with a personal best of 52.64, while All-American Erica Whipple made a strong statement of what her senior season was going to be like by winning the 200m title with a time of 23.59.
At the Tyson Invite in Fayetteville, Ark., junior Shay Shelton proved that she had what it took to remain a top competitor in the women's 800m run. Shelton, who had been struggling throughout the season, won the event with a time of 2:09.19, her first win of the season.
However, senior distance runner Jenny Lake returned to Fayetteville two weeks later set to make a lasting impression at her final SEC Indoor Championship. Lake, who finished fourth in the 3,000m run with a time of 9:41.77, broke the school indoor record of 9:44.36 she set in 2003. Lake also returned to run the anchor leg of the distance medley relay that finished second with the second fastest time in school history of 11:42.73.
Also among the SEC highlights was an impressive performance by freshman Amberly Nesbitt, who matched the second fastest 60m time in school history of 7.31, set by 2004 Olympian and former Gamecock Aleen Bailey. The Gamecocks dominated the 200m and 400m dashes with four top eight finishes in each event. Whipple led the Gamecocks in a 4-6-7-8 finish in the 200m with a time of 23.24, while Hastings led the 2-3-4-5 sweep in the 400m with a NCAA automatic qualifying time of 52.27. USC finished the SEC Championship in fifth place.
With similar success, the Gamecocks returned to Fayetteville for the third consecutive trip for the NCAA Indoor Championship. While the Gamecocks experienced both joy and pain at the championship, they still came out on top with a fifth place overall finish.
Freshman Shalonda Solomon earned her first All-America honor with a fifth place finish in the 200m final, running the fifth fastest time in school history of 23.15, while Whipple finished sixth. In the 400m final, sophomore All-American Stephanie Smith, senior All-American Shevon Stoddart and Hastings, who had the second fastest time going into the final, competed for the title. While Smith finished third with a time of 52.94, followed by Stoddart's fourth place finish, Hastings went down in the first stretch and was unable to complete the race. With the 4x400m relay championship on the line, Solomon stepped in to run the anchor leg for Hastings and the Gamecocks won another national 4x400m relay title with a time of 3:30.01, the sixth fastest time in school history.
Not satisfied with their indoor finish, the Gamecocks returned during the outdoor season with one mission in mind-to win the national outdoor title.
Ranked as high as No. 2 during the outdoor season, the Gamecocks started off the season ranked seventh and fought to gain respect in the SEC and NCAA. With several impressive performances early in the outdoor season, the Gamecocks caught the attention of many and set the tone for the rest of the outdoor season when they traveled to Knoxville, Tenn. for the Gatorade Classic. While teaming up with two other SEC schools to take on the Big Ten, the women's relay teams broke two records and recorded one of the fastest times in the world at the Tom Black Track.
The excitement kicked off when the 4x100m relay, consisting of All-Americans senior Khalilah Carpenter, freshman Shalonda Solomon, senior Alexis Joyce and freshman Amberly Nesbitt, broke a seven-year Gatorade Classic record with a first place finish time of 43.58, the eighth fastest time in school history. By the end of the day, the Gamecocks' 4x400m relay set the track on fire, breaking an 18-year old Gatorade Classic record with a time of 3:32.14, the second fastest time run in the world at that point of the season.
However, it didn't end there for the Gamecocks. USC hurdlers swept the 100m and 400m hurdles, finishing 1-2-3 and 1-2-3-4, respectively. Leading the Gamecocks in both events and throughout the rest of the outdoor season was junior All-American Tiffany Ross-Williams. Ross-Williams ran 13.40 and 56.51, respectively. Sophomore thrower Precious Akins experienced great success in Knoxville, finishing first in the discus with a distance of 166'10 and seventh in the hammer.
The Gamecocks returned to Knoxville the following week for the Sea Ray Relays and broke three more meet records. Among the record-breaking performances, Gamecocks Smith, Whipple, Nesbitt and Solomon set a new Sea Ray Relays record and a new Tom Black Track record in the 4x200m relay with a time of 1:31.64. Clemson set the previous record track in 2000. The second record-breaking performance was by the 4x100m shuttle relay consisting of All-Americans sophomore Chiquita Martin, Ronnetta Alexander, Stoddart and Ross-Williams. The foursome broke the meet and track record with a time of 54.00. Entering the record book for the third time of the meet was Ross-Williams, who finished first in the 100m hurdles, and returned to break the Sea Ray Relays record in the 400m hurdles with a time of 55.93. The previous record of 56.14 was set in 1993.
Though, many would argue the Gamecocks' best performance of the season took place at the 2005 Penn Relays in Philadelphia. The Gamecocks totaled four relay titles and two individual titles, while Ross-Williams was named the Most Outstanding Collegiate Athlete of the Meet.
Though it was a wet and messy day, no clouds hung over the Gamecocks as the women's team lit up the track every time they had the opportunity to do so. The Gamecocks won the 4x100m relay, 4x200m relay, 4x400m relay and the shuttle hurdle relay. Junior All-American Tiffany Ross-Williams won the 400m hurdles title, while finishing second in the 100m hurdles with a personal best of 12.99. Stoddart finished second in the 400m hurdles and third in the Olympic Development 100m hurdles, also with a personal best of 13.52. Both Ross-Williams and Stoddart ran on the winning shuttle hurdle relay and the 4x400m relay. However, earning one of the most noteworthy accomplishments of the meet was Hammond who won her fourth consecutive Penn Relays title in the long jump.
The following week, Ross-Williams was name the USTCA Athlete of the Week and the SEC Athlete of the Week for the second consecutive week.
Heading into the SEC Outdoor Championship, the Gamecocks were favored to win the title and become a top contender for the national title. With a few early disappointments, the Gamecocks jumped from seventh place with 20.2 points to first place totaling 145.2 points in the final day of competition, sealing the win with another 4x400m relay performance.
With several highlights, including freshmen wins in the 200m and 400m dashes by Solomon and Hastings, a 400m hurdles title by Ross-Williams and two relay wins, the biggest highlight of the meet was junior All-American jumper Kemesha Whitmire's triple jump performance. Whitmire, who finished fourth in the long jump with a leap of 20'7 ¾, came back for more leaping a personal best of 43'7 in the second flight of the triple jump trials. Whitmire's mark, the second best mark in school history, earned Whitmire her first SEC title and the first SEC jumps title ever for the Gamecocks.
Although the Gamecocks won the SEC title for the first time since 2002, they did not stop there. The women's team went on to New York City for the NCAA East Regional Championship to claim their second championship title of the season. Taking the spotlight early in the competition was junior pole vaulter Cheryl Terrio. Terrio, an SEC scorer who was pretty consistent throughout the season vaulted a height of 13'3 _, a personal best that earned her third place, six points for the Gamecocks and her NCAA Championship appearance.
The Gamecocks won the 4x100m relay in a close competition against Miami and again won the 4x400m relay, an event they've been ranked as No. 1 all season. They qualified 12 athletes in nine events for the NCAA Outdoor Championship in Sacramento, Calif.
As one of the favorites at the NCAA Championship, after winning the SEC and NCAA East Regional titles, the Gamecocks still had captured the No. 1 spot in the polls. In fact, they went into the championship ranked No. 3, behind Texas, who held the top spot all season, and Miami, who the Gamecocks defeated at the NCAA East Regional.
In a competition that went back and forth with ups and downs by the Gamecocks, the championship came down to the final event. In the four days of competition, USC women's team saw a second place finish in the 200m dash by Solomon, a third and sixth place finish by Smith and Hastings, with personal best performances of 50.93 and 51.87, respectively, and personal best performances by Stoddart and Ross-Williams in the 400m hurdles for second and third places with times of 54.47 and 54.56, respectively. The 4x100m relay finished second. Defeated in the final event by Texas, the 4x400m relay, the Longhorns finished the championship with the title, while the Gamecocks were proud to finish tied for second with UCLA.
The Gamecocks concluded their season at the USATF Junior and Senior Outdoor Championships at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. and the Supreme Ventures National Senior Athletes Championship at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica.
Hastings won the junior 400m title, while Nesbitt finished second in the 100m dash. Both athletes made the junior national team that will compete at the Pan Am Games in Canada at the end of July. Smith finished eighth in the senior 400m dash final, qualifying for the USA 4x400m relay pool and a chance to go to the World Championship in Helsinki. At the Jamaican trials, Stoddart made the Jamaican team in the 400m hurdles, while Hammond long jumped her way to the Central America and Caribbean Championships in Nassau, Bahamas.
Hammond will return in the fall for her senior indoor season, while seniors Carpenter, Joyce, Lake and Whipple will bid farewell to their collegiate careers at USC. Although Ross-Williams had one year of eligibility remaining, she too will not be returning next season after signing a professional contract with Reebok.
Frye and Ross-Williams were named USTCA Southeast District Coach and Female Athlete of the Year, while Frye was also received honors as East Region and SEC Coach of the Year. The women's team was named USC Women's Team of the Year, while Stoddart was named Female Athlete of the Year. Academically, the Gamecocks also racked up numerous recognitions, including Jenny Lake being named Scholar Athlete of the Year and an H. Boyd McWhorter Scholarship recipient. Lake also received a NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and was named to the Academic All-American first team. South Carolina men's and women's track and field teams totaled 26 athletes on the SEC 2005 Spring Academic Honor Roll, while Carpenter, Lake and Ross-Williams celebrated their graduation in May.