By Josh Ford, Waccamaw HS (Pawleys Island, South Carolina)
The University of South Carolina track and field team is coming off the final meet of the year in the NCAA Outdoor National Championship in Eugene, Oregon, on June 6 through June 9. The men’s team placed 35th with 8 points scored and the women’s team placed 56th with 2 points. Of the eight events that the Gamecocks were represented in, half of them were field events. Both men and women had their points scored on the field; Rougui Sow, a junior, placed seventh in the women’s long jump and senior Josh Awotunde getting silver in the men’s shot put.
Assistant Head Coach Delethea Quarles, who specializes in jumping events and multis, said that Awotunde getting silver was the climax of the season.
“That was really the high point to our season, and he did phenomenal indoors and was the SEC Champion,” Quarles said. “We have the desire to keep improving on our conference and national finish for the year and we’re just looking to keep improving on that. So I’d say, in some respects, we had hoped for better.”
Though only two people put points on the board for the Gamecocks, there are many bright signs ahead. Nine athletes, four from the women’s 4X400 relay, came away with All-American titles.
Aliyah Abrams, a junior sprinter, is now a four-time All-American and was on the 4X400 relay team, which placed 17th, and she placed 18th in the 400m dash at Eugene. Abrams feels as though repetition is the key to success.
“The most important thing to remember when racing at championships is to stay within yourself,” Abrams said. “Don’t go out there and try something new or change the way you’ve been doing things. If you just execute like you’ve been all year, you will see the results you want.”
This year was a very productive year for Gamecock jumpers. The Gamecocks had the most jumpers at one time qualify for national meets, both indoor and outdoor, in Quarles’ 21-year coaching career at South Carolina.
“I felt like the camaraderie within the group of jumpers, most of the time, carried us to a place of excellence. And then, unfortunately, at times, maybe our spirits may not have been the best.” Coach Quarles said.
Despite the high attendance of jumpers for the Gamecocks, the experience wasn’t quite as abundant.
“In spite of the number that qualified, there was only one athlete that has been there before. So sometimes the newness to that level, that nerves, can get the best of them,” Quarles said. “For next year I feel like they will be better prepared to be at that meet and handle the emotions that come with the level of expectation and executing at the same time.”
Abrams has been to a pretty big stage back in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro for the summer Olympics. She placed 38th in the 400m dash representing the country of Guyana.
“Being at the Olympics taught me that it’s all about not getting distracted by the large crowd or the hype of it all,” Abrams said. “It’s a lot going on and the best thing to do is stay focused.”
Track and field is a very diverse sport. There are 26 events in the outdoor season in the NCAA. The sport can be developmental for both physical and social challenges.
“The great thing about track and field is that you have so many disciplines. You have – even in the jumps – long jump, high jump, triple jump, and then you have the pole vault,” Quarles said. “So even inside of the actual areas that you have and the different disciplines, there are several events inside of that. I think that’s the great thing about track and field that it covers a broad end of sports.”
Scoring points when it counts is one of the most important things in track and field. So putting the athletes in certain lineups is very important to how the team gets its points. Most regular season meets aren’t scored so that gives the athletes a chance to perfect their craft for when the meets do get scored at, say, a championship.
Abrams sees points as an opportunity for people to get interested in coming to a certain school for track and field.
“Scoring points is major because it’s a measure of how good athletes at a school is doing,” Abrams said. “It’s also good for recruiting when young athletes coming up can see the school they want to go to is showing out.”
[Check out Josh’s Wakelet to learn more about USC Track and Field.]