Three Gamecocks Earn Medals Saturday at Indoor Championships
By: USC SID
FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. (USC SID) — Three more Gamecocks hit the medal stand Saturday as the SEC Indoor Championships came to a close out at the University of Arkansas. Nakita Gray brought home the women’s first individual championship since 2011 with a win in the high jump, and Dondre Echols and Briana Haith claimed bronze.
It would be a tight competition in the high jump, but just four women remained at the height of 5-11 ½. Gray held the lead based on misses but was looking for a new personal best to clinch the win. All four competitors missed their attempts at 6-0 ¾ to send it to tiebreakers.
Gray and Georgia’s Madeline Fagan had the same number of misses, so the judges ruled there should be a jump-off. Fagan would clear the bar first, and after Gray fouled it appeared she would settle for silver. After the competition, the judges convened and reversed the decision to have a jump off because Gray cleared the 5-11 ½ bar in just one try while Fagan needed two shots at it. With her win, she became the first women’s indoor SEC champion in any jump event, and is the first individual SEC indoor champion since Lakya Brookins in 2011.
For the men, the day started with two sprint finals, beginning with the 60m hurdles. The team had three in the finals, representing a major spot to move up in the team standings. Led by Dondre Echols’ bronze-medal performance, the Gamecocks went 3rd, 4th (Isaiah Moore) and 7th (Jermaine Collier) to move the team all the way up to fifth in the team score.
David Winters kept things rolling in the first of his two finals, running fifth in the 60m dash (6.69 seconds). Later on in the day, he would score again with another fifth-place finish in the 200m. Ncincilili Titi also scored in the 200, coming in eighth.
The women’s team got on the board in a big way, with two runners scoring in the 400m final. Briana Haith showed off a tremendous kick to go from third all the way to the front in the final 100 meters and win her heat in 52.34. That time moved her all the way up to seventh in school history, surpassing Tiffany Ross’ 2005 time of 52.43. Aliyah Abrams added to the big finish, taking seventh overall to score in her first-ever SEC meet.
Back in the field events, Natasha Dicks put a cap on an outstanding indoor season with a school record in the triple jump. She set the record on her very first attempt, hitting 43-6 ½, but bettered it in her final attempt of the preliminary round, hitting 43-9 ¾. She scored with a fourth-place finish, the team’s first scorer in the triple jump since Kamesha Whitmire in 2006 and the highest finisher since Rodena Barr in 2000.
The mile relays closed out the competition, with both the men and women in need for good times to try and make nationals. The men finished eighth but hit a season-best time of 3:10.25 with the team of Ryan Bermudez, Dondre Echols, Ncincilili Titi and Ty Jaye Robbins. The women took sixth, running 3:35.17 with the team of Erika Rucker, Aliyah Abrams, Briana Haith and Maiya Dendy.
The team will wait and see who will make the cut for the NCAA Indoor Championships, coming in two weeks in Birmingham, Alabama (March 11-12). Student-athletes need to rank in the top 16 nationally as individuals to make the national meet, and the top 12 relay teams make the cut.
- In the final team standings, the women finished 11th with 26 points, the best result since 2013. The men wound up ninth overall with 35.33 points, the best result since 2011.
- Kierstin Williams had a personal breakthrough Saturday, finishing with a mark of 53-9 ¼ in the weight throw. All three of her marks in the competition would have been her season best, she added over three feet to her previous season-best (50-6).
- With Dondre Echols’ bronze in the 60m hurdles, the Gamecocks have medaled in the event for back-to-back years for the first time since 2009-2010. Jermaine Collier earned bronze last year.
QUOTABLE: HEAD COACH CURTIS FRYE
Recapping the Championships
“I’m really excited, our kids really laid it out on the line, keep having personal bests and if you keep beating yourself you’ll end up being successful. I’m thrilled about the performance of our kids this weekend, and to move from where we were last year, that’s a process.”