ANDERSON, S.C. – The Anderson University men’s and women’s track and field teams are slated to open their respective slates on Saturday at Clemson’s Orange & Purple Classic, hosted at the Clemson University Indoor Complex.
Led by veterans, the predominately young Trojan teams are looking to build on momentum generated from strong outings during the 2013 campaigns. The men’s and women’s squads combined to capture 21 top-ten finishes, including a pair of victories at the PowerSox Invitational, hosted by Lenoir-Rhyne last March.
Buoyed by 17 season-best performances, the women’s team captured second place at the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Championships a year ago, while the men finished fifth at the event, which served as the unofficial conference meet until this season.
The 2014 campaign marks the first season that track and field will be an official South Atlantic Conference sponsored sport, and “we are really looking forward to having a conference championship,” said Anderson head coach Randy Greer. “I believe we can do really well on both sides at the conference championship.”
On the men’s side, Greer will be looking for newcomers on the freshmen and sophomore-dominated roster to step up once they get accustomed to collegiate competition.
Senior Parks Edwards and junior Joshua Visi-Clark, who finished seventh in the 800 meter run at last year’s regional, are the lone returning upperclassmen with experience.
“We will be looking to Parks [Edwards] and Josh [Visi-Clark] to provide experience,” added Greer. “Josh will be one of the top guys in the conference in the 800 meter run and Parks has been an all-conference performer in cross country numerous times, so we are looking for him to be all-conference in track as well.”
What they may lack in experience, Greer is looking for his Trojans to make up for in talent. Newcomer Ben Boerma, primarily the No. 2 runner in cross country, will be expected to run well in the middle-distance events, while another freshman, Caleb Knight is projected to perform well in the 400 meter dash. Freshman Eric Hoover will bring versatility to the squad and will compete in numerous events.
“The guys look pretty strong overall,” said the eighth-year head coach. “We still want to add some depth, but I believe we have a good solid base. We will be strong in a lot of events.”
The women’s team returns the majority of athletes that scored points en route to a second-placed finish at the Southeast Regionals.
“If our throwers can repeat their performances from the [Southeast Regional], and with the newcomers we have added, we have a legitimate chance to compete for the conference title this year,” added Greer. “Our returners look very strong.”
All four throwers return on the women’s side, including junior standout Brooklyn Watt, who claimed first place in the shot put at the 2013 Southeast Regionals. The Walhalla, S.C., native also captured third in the discus and fourth in the hammer throw. Fellow junior Savanna Keese also returns after finishing just ahead of Watt with a third-place finish a year ago in the hammer toss. Sophomore D'Yandra Morris placed sixth in the shot put, while Brooklyn Watkins notched seventh regionally in the javelin throw.
Junior Jill Baxter is expected to pace the squad in the jumps and multi-events following a stellar sophomore campaign that saw the Denver, N.C. native take first place at the regional event’s heptathlon and claim fourth in the high jump.
Redshirt-junior Madison Guest earned fifth place in the 800 meter run at the Southeast Regional and should compete as one of the top performers in the SAC, as well as possibly running relay events for the Trojans. Sydney Hazel, one of the top middle-distance runners in the conference, returns for her junior campaign after pacing the Trojans at the SAC Cross Country Championships last fall. She earned All-Conference accolades following her 11th-place finish and placed eighth in the 1500 meter run at the Southeast Regional track championships last year.
Newcomer Lauren Averitt, a transfer from Averett University, will contribute greatly and has the potential to be the top sprinter for the Trojans in 2014. Greer will look for freshmen Olivia Gardner and Bari Robinson to make the transition from cross country, with Gardner possessing the ability to run middle distance and longer, while Robinson will compete well in the 800 meter run. Another freshman, Sherin Malone, placed third in the 100 meter hurdles at the South Carolina State High School Class 4A Championships as a senior and is expected to contend at the collegiate level as well.
“We look strong in throws and in middle-distance and we have some really versatile athletes who do the sprints and jumps,” concluded Greer. “All of our throwers have legitimate shots at qualifying for nationals. We are talented, but we are young. This may be the largest freshman class since I have been here.”