Five freshmen earn first-place finishes at meet
The South Carolina men’s and women’s track and field team kicked off its 2014 season this past weekend as they hosted the first Gamecock Open.
The Gamecocks grabbed 13 total wins from teams out of Bethune Cookman, North Greenville, Claflin and Benedict. Of those 13 wins, five freshmen took home first place in their event: Sango Asante in the men’s mile run, Greg Lowing in the men’s 3,000-meter run, Leveshia McCoy in the women’s 400-meter, Mollie Williams in both the women’s 55-meter hurdles semifinals and finals, Natasha Dicks in the women’s long jump.
Sophomore Dondre Echols notices the youth on the team, but doesn’t see it as a hindrance to the team’s potential success this season.
“I see that as a strength,” Echols said of the underclassmen on the team. “A lot of the freshmen and sophomore [members] who have come here are the ones who have been contributing.”
A season after winning the team’s Male Rookie of the Year award as well as making the SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll, Echols returns with the experience to carry this year’s Gamecock squad.
The sophomore placed first in the men’s 55-meter hurdles finals event at the competition, finishing in 7.39 seconds, which was good enough for a new personal record. Echols, who is returning from a two injuries sustained last June, sees the Gamecocks as a force to be reckoned with in the SEC.
“I’ve recovered from my injuries from last year, so I’m kind of excited,” Echols said. “I told myself that if I can keep up the good work along with my teammates, we should be good this year, and a top SEC school.”
South Carolina swept the 55-meter hurdles competition in both men’s and women’s events. Freshman Mollie Williams, who was racing in her first collegiate race, ran an 8.22 in the semifinals, and improved her time to 8.04 in the finals to set a new personal record and take first place.
While underclassmen were running away with track events, South Carolina’s upperclassmen started the season off strong in the throwing events.
Redshirt junior Kaysee Sullivan, a Gamecock team captain this year, took the shot put with an all-time indoor best throw coming in at 14.11 meters. South Carolina also enjoyed first place finishes from Austin Eckenroth, who took the men’s pole vault, and Walker Selby, who set a new personal record in the men’s weight throw competition with a mark of 17.87 meters.
Next, the Gamecocks will travel to Blacksburg, Va. for the Virginia Tech Invitational, which begins Jan. 17. South Carolina took home four wins last season when they competed in the Virginia Tech Invitational. Two of last year’s four top-finishers at the event are competing again this year — redshirt sophomore Damiere Byrd and senior Clayton Gravesande.
“We’re all rested up pretty well,” Echols said. “We’re pretty excited and we’ve been working hard. I think we’ll drop some of the best times this weekend, and maybe next weekend.”
Echols finished third in the 60-meter hurdles final last year at the event, posting a 7.95 time.