The Gamecocks' Women’s Cross Country team won its first two meets of the 2021 season at USC Upstate and Winthrop.
Preparation for the season began in the summer with voluntary workouts prior to reporting to campus. On Aug. 13, training camp began, and the team was eager to get things started.
“I’ve been very pleased with the way they have gotten into a good mode of working together,” cross country coach Andrew Allden said. “The upperclassmen taking a leadership role and the freshman working very hard to learn our training system.”
South Carolina graduated four key seniors last year, who the team relied on to put up big points. Now, there is a big emphasis on building a cohesive group since the team is comprised of younger athletes this year.
Seniors Hannah Twine and Kira Jenkins were named captains for the 2021 season. Stepping into this new leadership role is something both of them wanted to do and were ready to take on.
“I’ve been passionate about being a leader on my team since my freshman year,” Jenkins said. “We have a lot of rebuilding to do, and I’m really excited with how well that’s going so far.”
The Gamecocks have found success so far under the new leadership. Some highlights include Twine placing first in the Winthrop Invitational, Jenkins placing third and the team totaling 28 points in each of its first two competitions.
After placing second in the first meet of her senior campaign, Twine then placed first – for the first time in her collegiate cross country career – at the team's second meet with a time of 18:58.75.
“That felt really good,” Twine said. “I know I have room to improve so I’m really excited to see what I can do at this next race.”
Coach Allden explained what it’s been like to see Twine progress throughout her years here at South Carolina.
Since stepping on campus four years ago, to now being a team captain (and one of the stronger runners on the team), Twine has been able to evolve as both an athlete and a person, Allden said. He described her as a “competitive person” and “aggressive about her training,” both of which have contributed to her individual success.
Looking ahead, the team has its sights set on beating Clemson and being a top contender in the Southeastern Conference.
"I don't like the term rebuilding, but this is a young team," coach Allden said. "A big part of the goal this year is to move that group along, not just for this year but for the next couple of years, because I think they're gonna be very good."
The Gamecocks will compete again at the Paul Short Run meet at Lehigh University on Friday, Oct. 1.
“It’s our first 6K of the season, which is always an adjustment,'' Jenkins said. “It’s an exciting meet because we have a lot of girls from Pennsylvania, myself included, so we’ll have a big fan section.”