CLEMSON, S.C. (May 15, 2008) - For the first time in the 13-year history of the event, the state of South Carolina serves as the host for the Atlantic Sun Men's and Women's Outdoor Track and Field Championship, held at Clemson's Rock Norman Track and Field Complex. Hosted by USC Upstate, the two-day Championship begins on Friday.
A year ago the ETSU men's track and field team hoisted its first-ever outdoor conference championship and this weekend the Buccaneers look to defend the title; however, the task will not be an easy one as ETSU is without one of its top points collectors.
The Buccaneers' take a hit as sophomore thrower Jarrod Burton (Bastian, Va.) has been sidelined by injury all outdoor season, but ETSU can expect to score in the decathlon, sprints, relays, horizontal and vertical jumps and distance events.
In the sprints, a trio of ETSU athletes has been atop the conference performance charts all season. Sophomore Duronal Monal (Belle Glade, Fla.) holds the fastest time in the 200m among A-Sun foes and ranks second in the 100m. Monal is already familiar with the Clemson track and field complex as he set his league-leading mark of 21.55, last weekend at the Orange and Purple Classic. Along with Monal, newcomers Zack Titman (Damascus, Va.) and Josh Cloyd (Telford, Tenn.) look to give ETSU a lift in the sprints as well. Titman already shined in the 200m at the indoor meet as he won gold and hopes to give the Bucs a 1-2-3 punch in the outdoor event. With Monal holding the top time in the 200, Cloyd is right behind in second, with his 21.67 mark set at the Liberty Twilight meet earlier this month.
Cloyd will also be the Bucs' best chance to score points in the long and triple jump. The Telford, Tenn. native trails Campbell's Sam Tilly for the league's top mark. Cloyd jumped his season best in Knoxville when he finished with an overall mark of 24-00.25 (7.32m) at the Sea Relays in April.
While Cloyd is competing in the long jump, senior Shane Estes (Maryville, Tenn.) and freshman Andrew Houston (Crossville, Tenn.) look to scoop up points in the high jump. Houston holds the second highest leap of the season in the conference, posting a mark of 6-06 (1.98m) at the Furman Invitational in mid-April. Estes also turned in his season-best leap in the same meet, clearing 6-02 (1.88m).
Back on the track, sophomore Kenneth Rotich (Nairobi, Kenya), juniors Jeff Crane (Taylors, S.C.), Michael Deren (Blasdell, N.Y.) and J Penny (Telford, Tenn.) and senior Jordan Ladd (Ontario Canada) look to give the Buccaneers a boost in the distance events. Rotich, the reigning indoor champion in the 5,000m, holds the third fastest time in the outdoor event when he ran 14:40.51 at Liberty. Crane will have his hands full in the 1,500m as seven Belmont runners sit ahead of the Taylors, S.C. native, but he scored in both the 1,500 and the 5,000m events a year ago in Johnson City. Ladd closes out his ETSU career in hopes of winning gold in the steeplechase as he currently ranks in the top-three in the event. Penny will join Ladd in the steeplechase and Deren will run in the 5,000 and 10,000m with Rotich.
In the 400 and 800-meter events, Yordin Robinson (Kingston, Jamaica), Manuel Gonzales (Maryville, Tenn.), Josh Hicks (Riceville, Tenn.) and Josh Jaynes (Elizabethton, Tenn.) will be called upon in the long sprints. Hicks and Jaynes are ETSU's best threats to score in the 800; while Robinson highlights the Bucs in the 400.
Freshman Mike James (Palm Bay, Fla.) highlights the Bucs in the 110-meter hurdles. The Florida native sits fifth in the conference standings with his time of 14.66, but he is very capable of winning gold this weekend as he is not far off Campbell's Harold Sims top time of 14.32.
Sophomore Nic Chernikow (Seymour, Tenn.) puts his decathlon title on the line this weekend. Chernikow edged out Gardner-Webb's Elliott Haynie last year by nine points in the grueling two-day event. Sophomore Jordan Briggs (Erwin, Tenn.) finished third in this event last season and also looks to score points in the pole vault.
Joining Briggs in the pole vault is senior Dave Thomas (Maryville, Tenn.), junior Drew Beamer (Johnson City, Tenn.) and freshman Matt Baum (Middletown, Md.). Beamer (third) and Thomas (sixth) each scored in this event a year ago, and the Bucs can expect this duo, plus Briggs, to bag some points during the weekend action.
In the throws, ETSU is guided by the freshmen duo of Stuart Bowen (Crossville, Tenn.) and Gavin Proffit (Boone, N.C.). Bowen is representing the Bucs in the shot put and Profitt gets the nod in the discus; while both will be competing in the hammer.
Closing out the attack on the men's side are the Buccaneer relay teams. ETSU holds the number one slot in the 4x100-meter side and hope to make it three straight conference titles in the event. ETSU has also brought home the title in both the 100 and 200-meter events since joining the A-Sun as well.
Last season the ETSU women's team posted a top-three finish as they totaled 90 points on the weekend and finished behind Jacksonville (179 points) and Belmont (97 points). This year the Bucs are focusing their attention to the short sprints, relays and throws group to do most of the scoring.
In the short sprints the Bucs are led by three outstanding runners where red-shirt senior Jenny Knox (Connelly Springs, N.C.) has been the leader all season. Knox, who finished first in the 100m and third in the 200m last year, set a new school record in the 100 earlier this month at Liberty. The Connelly Springs, N.C. native ran an impressive 11.79 back on May 1 - which is the second fastest time in the conference - behind Belmont's Lynette Rives (11.71). Juniors Judy Johnson (Knoxville) and Nae-Nae Bailey (Statesville, N.C.) rank three-four (in that order) in the 100m as well. The trio also ranks in the top-six among conference sprinters in the 200m, as Knox leads the group with the fourth quickest mark at 24.21 - which was also set at Liberty.
While Knox, Bailey and Johnson are tearing it up on the track, sophomore Zachlynn Blackburn (Tazewell, Va.) will be busy making noise in the throwing events. The reigning Most Outstanding Freshman Performer is competing in the shot put, discus and hammer this weekend. Blackburn won both the hammer and discus last season, and currently holds the third longest heave in the hammer (156-09) and fourth longest in the discus (128-04). The Tazewell, Va. native's mark of 156-09 earlier this month at Liberty, broke her previous school record of 153-11 (46.67m), which was set at Furman. Joining Blackburn in the throws is freshman Taylor Isgrig (Weaverville, N.C.) as she competes in the shot put and javelin. Isgrig has the eighth longest javelin mark in the league with her throw of 104-11 (31.98m) at Furman.
Like the men, ETSU's women also hold the fastest time in the 4x100-meter relay as they set a regional qualifying mark last weekend at Clemson, posting a time of 45.60. Johnson, Bailey, Knox and sophomore Christin Zink (Herndon, Va.) combine to make this a lethal Buccaneer quartet.
Zink and fellow sophomore Vicki Currie (Dumfries, Scotland) lead the Buccaneer attack in the long sprints. Zink will run the 400 and Currie showcases her talent in the 800m. Zink ran a season-best 58.06 in the 400m back on April 19 in Louisville; while Currie's best time came at Liberty, where she finished in 2:20.09 in the 800m.
A trio a freshman will carry the load in the distance events as twin sisters Terra and Tesha Haggard (Morristown, Tenn.) represent the Bucs in the 5,000m and Rochelle Crook (Cookeville, Tenn.) will run the steeplechase.
Local and freshman standout Ashton Bishop (Gate City, Va.) has ETSU's best scoring opportunity in the high jump. Bishop enters the championship with the seventh highest mark after clearing 5-04 (1.63m) at Furman. Hayley Pope (Easton, Md.) and Melissa Murrel (Knoxville) - two other Buccaneer freshmen - will also compete with Bishop in the event area. Bishop's weekend will be busy as she is also competing in the heptathlon. Staying with the youth movement, freshman Kendra Sigler (Lebanon, Tenn.) is ETSU's lone athlete in the triple jump.
For more coverage of the 2008 Atlantic Sun Track and Field Championships visit, http://www.atlanticsun.org/mtrackfield/championship/, and for a full recap of ETSU events visit, www.ETSUBucs.com.