Spartans Set to Chase Hardware at A-Sun Indoor Championships

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Katie Parker, kparker@uscupstate.edu

A-Sun Men's Preview | A-Sun Women's Preview 

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The USC Upstate men's and women's track & field teams are set to compete this weekend at the Atlantic Sun Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships hosted by ETSU Feb. 22-23 in Johnson City, Tenn.

The Spartans have set 10 program records so far during the indoor season, including seven on the women's side and three on the men's. Both men's and women's teams will look to improve on their team finishes from last year's A-Sun Indoor Championships as well as individual marks from this season.

"We are simply ready to go for this weekend," said Upstate Head Coach Natalie Smith. "At this point in the year we are ready to see some major progressions in our level of competition and some maturity in how to race and compete. We have had a pretty good indoor season thus far and are hoping to end it off with everyone doing their very best."

The Upstate men's team has finished in the top-four three times at the conference championships in the last four years, including a program-best third-place in 2012. The Spartans collected a team-high 95 points at last year's indoor championships. In 2012, the Upstate women's team recorded its best finish in school history, while tallying its highest point total as well, taking fifth with 51 points.

"We have several athletes with a shot at becoming conference champions and we are excited to see how everything turns out this weekend," Smith said. "I shared with the athletes this week that going into this weekend rankings do not count. It will be those that show up and compete at a high level this weekend that will walk away with the success they desire."

Senior Gilbert Kemboi (Eldoret, Kenya) will look to claim his fourth conference championship in the 5,000-meter to become just the second A-Sun indoor track athlete to win an event four times as Kennesaw State's Jerome McKinzie won the high jump from 2007-10. Kemboi is also looking for his third championship crown in the 3,000-meter. He as recorded the fastest times this season in the conference in the 5K (14:39.31) and the 3K (8:20.05). His time in the 3K set a new Upstate record. Kemboi is also slated to compete in the one mile run. Earlier this season he clocked in at 4:14.69 for the third-best time in the league.

Upstate senior Kenny Sugishita (Arroyo Grande, Calif.) has the opportunity to defend his shot put and weight throw titles this weekend after sweeping the throwing events at the 2012 A-Sun Indoor Championships. No one has been able to sweep those events in back-to-back years. This season, he has recorded the best toss in the league in the shot put with a mark of 15.40-meters, while registering the third-best mark in the weight throw with a heave of 16.47-meters.

"On the men's side, we have several men that the conference will have their eyes on going into the championships," Smith said. "Leading the way for our men in their respective individual events are Gilbert Kemboi, Kenny Sugishita, Cameron Thomas, Brandon Curry and Matthew Johnson. As far as the team rankings it will be a fight until the end to see where our men finish. We are proud of where we have progressed from since the beginning of the indoor season back in December and look forward to a great and fun weekend."

Other Spartan men to watch for at the A-Sun Championships this weekend are seniors Cameron Thomas (Niceville, Fla.) and Brandon Curry (Anderson, S.C.) and junior Matt Johnson (Elgin, S.C.). Thomas returns to action in the 800-meter, an event he earned A-Sun Second Team All-Conference honors for in 2012. This season he posted a school record time of 1:51.35 for the fastest time in the A-Sun. Thomas was trailed in the 800-meter by Johnson with the league's second-best time of 1:51.60.

Curry was a Third Team All-Conference selection in the men's 60-meter hurdles last year and looks to improve on that this weekend. He turned in the second-fastest time in conference this season, crossing the line in 8.45, putting him in the faster of the two heats this weekend.

On the women's side, freshman sensation Dominique Nock (Griffin, Ga.) is scheduled to compete in the long jump, 60-meter dash and 200-meter dash. She looks to become the first female in Upstate history to medal in a fielding event at the indoor championships and only the second across both indoor and outdoor track & field as Camille Masanotti took second-place in the pole vault in 2010. Nock set a program record in the long jump this season with a leap of 5.77-meters, which currently ranks as the third-best mark in the conference.

"On the women's side, Dominique Nock and Brittany Walls have an opportunity to score in their individual events along with our 4x4 team looking to run its best time of the season after setting a new school record this year, previously by over five seconds," Smith said.

Nock also posted school records in the 60-meter dash, 200-meter and the 4x400-meter relay. She is 10th in the A-Sun this season with a time of 7.75 in the 60-meter and 13th in the 200-meter, clocking in at 25.89. The rookie will team with freshman Rebecca Elliott (Columbus, N.C.), junior Ashley Edmond (Hopkins, S.C.) and freshman Heaven Briggs (Columbus, Ga.) in the women's 4x400-meter relay. The quartet set an Upstate record in the event Feb. 9 at Clemson's Tiger Paw Invitational, crossing the line in 4:05.20.     

Sophomore Brittany Walls (Chester, S.C.) is slated to compete in the high jump, shot put and the pentathlon this weekend. She set a school record in the pentathlon this season with 2852 points to rank third in the league. In the high jump this season, she cleared 1.50-meters, while recording a toss of 11.47-meters in the shot put.

Fans can follow all the action this weekend on the live results link or on Twitter at #ASunTF. Follow the Spartans this season on your mobile device, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.