Aug. 26, 2014
By Brad Muller | More Features
South Carolina cross country looks to hit the ground running in 2014 thanks to a solid group of veterans and a promising young corps of runners, which includes 13 freshmen and six sophomores. Three of South Carolina's top runners in recent years return for coach Andrew Allden, including sophomore Mary Reiser, who was the Gamecocks' second finisher in six of seven meets last year and earned SEC All-Freshmen Team honors, as well as junior Anna Todd and redshirt junior Kayla Lampe.
Lampe missed all of last year's cross country season due to injury and is hoping to return to her 2012 form where she not only earned 2nd Team All-SEC honors, but also broke the school records in the 5K and 6K, while Todd placed first at the Gamecock Invitational last year.
"We return five of our top seven, plus Lampe, which is always good," Allden said. "Stephanie Berger ran a good solid number three for us at the end of the year last year. We've got an excellent group of freshmen, probably as strong a freshman class as we've had in school history. I think it's early to say who is going to stand out right away in that class, but there are three or four people that I would reasonably suspect will be in our top seven or eight during the course of the season."
Longer distance races could be a factor as to which young runners emerge.
"The big question with the freshmen is six kilometers versus five kilometers and running an extra three or four minutes in a race," Allden said. "For some, that's going to be a plus. For others, it's going to be more of a challenge."
"This year's team is really competitive, but as you go through the season you get to be like family."
Lampe is coming off another injury at the end of track season, so at what point she is able to rejoin the team at full strength could make a difference. Reiser ran the 13th fastest time in school history at the NCAA Southeast Regional last fall, then placed herself in the school top ten record books during last spring's track season with outstanding times in the 3,000 meters, 5,000 meters, and 10,000 meters races. She also proved her toughness at the SEC Outdoor Championships by running the third-fastest time in school history for the 10,000 meters despite losing her left shoe early in the race, leaving her foot blistered and bruised.
"I've coached athletes at the NCAA and Olympic level, and it was as brave as a performance as I've ever seen," Allden said. "Of the two individuals who have faster times than her here, one was SEC Champion in the 10,000 meters and an All-American in the event. Kayla Lampe is almost at the same level. It's just over, by a very small margin, NCAA Regional qualifying time. To get that close shows a lot of promise."
With her foot healed from the spring, Reiser is excited about the team's possibilities this fall.
"We have a young team, and I want to set an example," Reiser said. "As a team, I thought we did well last year. I just want us to come together by the time the SEC meet rolls around so we can do better. This year's team is really competitive, but as you go through the season you get to be like family and you try to help everyone get through it."
Reiser and Lampe have been named to the SEC Preseason Watch List. Coach Allden is confident he will have a much improved team in 2014, but he knows the rest of the SEC will be getting better as well.
"We could be a lot better," Allden said. "We might move up a lot in the region, but not move up a lot in the conference. We want to do better in the SEC, that's the biggest part of what we're trying to achieve."
The Gamecocks open the season at 9 a.m., Saturday when they host the Carolina Invitational at Hilton Field on Ft. Jackson. Directions to Ft. Jackson and information can be found here.
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