SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The USC Upstate men's and women's track & field teams head to the Sunshine State this weekend for the Atlantic Sun Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships April 20-21 hosted by North Florida.
The Spartan men seek a top-three team finish, returning the A-Sun Most Outstanding Indoor Track Performer and the A-Sun Most Outstanding Indoor Field Performer in juniors Gilbert Kemboi (Eldoret, Kenya) and Kenny Sugishita (Arroyo Grande, Calif.), respectively. The junior duo each won two individual titles at the conference indoor meet in February. Kemboi currently ranks first in the league in the outdoor season with his school record performance in the 5,000-meter at the Duke Invitational April 6 with a time of 14:16.66. He also leads the A-Sun in the 10,000-meter with an Upstate record time of 29:51.99 set at N.C. State's Raleigh Relays March 29.
Sugishita leads the A-Sun in two events and ranks second in another. He tops the conference in the discus and hammer throw with school record marks in both. He broke his own school record at the Charlotte 49er Classic March 15 with a toss of 49.17-meters (161-4.0) in the discus. The junior reset his Upstate record in the hammer throw at Auburn's Tiger Track Classic April 6 with mark of 58.15-meters (190-9.0), leading the rest of the conference pack by nearly 31 feet. Sugishita is second in the league rankings in the shot put, recording a school-best performance at the Winthrop Invitational March 29 with throw of 15.65-meters (50-4.25).
"We are really excited about this weekend's meet," said Upstate head coach Natalie Smith. "We believe that we have the student athletes ready to compete at their best. Looking at this weekend's events, there are going to be some really close races and some great competition in the field events."
Sophomore Matt Johnson (Elgin, S.C.) also returns to action for the Spartan men this weekend. He is scheduled to compete in the 800-meter and 400-meter runs. Johnson ranks sixth in the A-Sun in the 800-meter, posting a school record time of 1:53.31 at the Catamount Classic March 24. The sophomore ranks second in the league in the 400-meter, crossing the line in 48.07 at the Charlotte 49er Classic March 15.
Junior Cameron Thomas (Niceville, Fla.) will participate in the 800-meter and the 4x400-meter relay for the Spartan men. He ranks seventh in the A-Sun in the 800-meter, just behind Johnson with a time of 1:53.31, which he recorded at the Charlotte 49er Classic March 15. The Upstate 4x400-meter relay team of Thomas, Matt Johnson, Michael Johnson (Elgin, S.C.) and Evan Woodruff (Sebastian, Fla.) is third in the conference, turning in a time of 3:16.67 March 29 at the Winthrop Invitational.
Junior Perrish Goggins (Columbia, S.C.) is slated to compete in four events this weekend, including the long jump, high jump, 200-meter and 100-meter. He ranks second in the conference in the high jump with a leap of 2.04-meters (6-8.25) at the Duke Invite April 6. He is seventh in the A-Sun in the long jump with a mark of 6.79-meters (22-3.5), which he recorded at the Catamount Classic March 24. Goggins is sixth in the league in the 100-meter and 11th in the 200-meter with times of 10.97 and 22.44, respectively.
Also in action this week for the Spartan men are juniors Christian Ritacco (Niceville, Fla.), Davey Dennison (Carlisle, Pa.) and Brandon Curry (Anderson, S.C.). Ritacco and Dennison set records in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 1,500-meter, respectively. Ritacco ranks fourth in the A-Sun in the steeplechase, registering a time of 9:36.17 April 6 at the Duke Invitational. Dennison is sixth in the conference, posting a time of 3:57.12 in the 1,500-meter at the Duke Invite. Curry recorded a time of 14.70 in the 110-meter hurdles at the Winthrop Invite March 29, coming in third in the league rankings.
"We are hoping to see our men finish in the top three and our women in the top five," Smith said. "We have had an exceptional season thus far and really it all boils down to the team pulling together over the two-day meet and competing at a high level."
On the women's side, senior Jemeli Sang (Eldoret, Kenya) currently tops the A-Sun in two events during the outdoor season. She recorded a program-best time of 16:35.36 in the 5,000-meter April 6 at the Duke Invitational. Sang posted another Upstate record in the 10,000-meter, crossing the line in 35:06.57 March 29 at N.C. State's Raleigh Relays. She is scheduled to compete in both events this weekend.
Seniors Joan Tangwar (Eldoret, Kenya) and Carolyne Chelulei (Eldoret, Kenya) join Sang in the 5,000-meter race. Tangwar ranks eighth in the event with a time of 17:20.06 at the Raleigh Relays, while Chelulei ranks 11th in the A-Sun with a time of 17:30.80 at the Charlotte 49er Classic. Chelulei is also slated to participate in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. She is sixth in the conference performance list in the steeplechase with a school record mark of 11:22.64 at the Duke Invite.
Tangwar will also compete in the women's 1,500-meter race, along with freshman Jasmine Polite (Goose Creek, S.C.). Tangwar ranks sixth in the conference with a time of 4:37.17 at the 49er Classic, while Polite's best time in the event was 4:49.14 at the Winthrop Invite. The freshman is scheduled to participate in the 800-meter as well. Polite posted her best time in the 800-meter at the 49er Classic, crossing the finish line in 2:17.56.
The Spartan women also return freshman Breana Kwasnik (Greenville, S.C.) to action this weekend at the A-Sun Championships. She ranks fourth in the pole vault in the conference performance list with a 3.35-meter (10-11.75) mark at the Winthrop Invite March 29.
"We are looking to add to our list of individual conference champions and hoping that we can have a couple of our athletes win more than one event," Smith said. "We have been extremely proud of the consistency and progression of our student-athletes this season. It has been a really fun season and we are hoping that this weekend will be the best meet we have had. The Univeristy of North Florida has a great facility so there should be a great atmosphere for success there. We are looking to see lots of green and black in the top three spots of events."