The 1997-98 Clemson women’s track and field season looks to be a promising one for the Lady Tigers. Under the direction of head coaches Chad Bell and David Kaiser, Clemson sets out to challenge for the 1998 ACC Championship titles.
The Lady Tigers have depth on this year’s squad that Bell and Kaiser describe as “a quality depth” that will allow the team to take a shot at the ACC titles and further their success on the national level at the NCAA Championships.
Cross Country/Distance Wayne Coffman will lead the Lady Tigers during the cross country season. The growth and development of the cross country returnees has impressed Coffman in early competition of the 1997 campaign. “Our returnees have improved immensely,” commented Coffman. “We really do not have a front runner this season, but we have a team that is very tight from a pack standpoint. That is the type of team we need in cross country, one that is tightly packed.
“We do have a young group this season with only one senior on the squad, Megan Hartman. She will provide the leadership for the younger members of the team.”
Beth Ahern and Shannon Schoppman return as consistent distance competitors who have significantly improved in the off-season. “The difference between their performances of last season and this season is like night and day,” commented Coffman.
“Both have already contributed a great deal in cross country so far this season,” said Coffman. Both Ahern and Schoppman are expected to run among the top seven in cross country.
Freshman Jennifer Meador is expected to come in and make an immediate impact as a top seven cross country runner. Meador joins the Clemson team as a seven-event school record holder as a prep.
“All of our cross country runners will carry us into the track season and compete in events anywhere from the 800m to 5000m range,” said Coffman. “We really do not have a 10,000m competitor this season. Beth Ahern would like to move up into the 10,000m, but she has a knee injury that has kept her from training the miles she needs to in order to compete in that event.”
Also competing during the indoor and outdoor seasons are juniors Julianne Littman and Brantley Epps. Both return as ACC scorers in the middle distance area. “I am looking for them to contribute big things this Spring,” commented Coffman. “I feel that they are both ready for a major breakthrough.”
Littman and Epps were members of the 4x800m relay team that broke the school record at the Penn Relays with a time of 9:08.44.
Sprints and Hurdles Bell looks to this season as a challenging one for the Lady Tigers but one that can be successful. “The 1997-98 season will be a mixture of having experience and youth but at a very high quality,” said Bell. “The goals of the sprints and hurdles group is to contribute at both the ACC and NCAA Championships, scoring the points we are capable of scoring.”
The sprints should lead the Lady Tigers to success this season. Sprints and relays coach Chad Bell will look to returning All-Americans Samantha Watt and Shekera Weston to significantly contribute in the sprints area.
Last season Watt and Weston were members of the 4x400m All-America relay team that captured the ACC indoor title and placed fourth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. That same team claimed the conference title at the ACC Championships.
Watt scored in the 200m dash at the indoor conference meet. During outdoor competition, she scored at the conference meet with a personal best performance of 53.24 in the 400m dash, which ranks fourth on the Clemson all-time performers list.
Weston, who begins her sophomore season with the Lady Tigers, was one of the top performers in the country last season. She was the only American freshman to compete in the 200m at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
In the short sprints, the Lady Tigers return 55m Clemson record holder Simone Tomlinson. She brings three years of experience to the team as the 1996 ACC 55m champion and 1997 100m champion. Tomlinson also earned All-ACC honors in the 55m dash last season at the ACC Championships.
Junior Nikkie Bouyer returns after a 1996-97 red-shirt season. Bell expects her to contribute in the short sprints and hurdles. Bouyer transferred to Clemson for the 1995-96 campaign and saw much success as she made her mark in the Clemson history books. During her first season with the Lady Tigers, Bouyer set the Clemson record in the 100m hurdles. She also ranks third on the all-time performers list in the 55m hurdles and fourth in the 200m dash.
Newcomer Annika Kumlin will compete for the Lady Tigers after training with the Tigers last season. The native of Finland was a member of the Finland World Junior National team as a 400m hurdler during her prep career.
Bell expects the newcomers to provide depth in the sprints and hurdles corp this year. “The freshmen will be counted on to solidify the relays and to give us depth in the sprints,” commented Bell.
Lashonda Cutchin joins the team as a high school All-American in the 200m event. During her senior year of high school, Terri Robinson was ranked fifth nationally in the long jump, but is expected to contribute a great deal in the sprints. Simone Brown joins the Clemson program as a high school record holder in both the 200m and 400m events. Relays The 4x400m relay team claimed the ACC indoor title and placed fourth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. All-Americans Samantha Watt and Shekera Weston return from that team and expect another successful season.
“We will continue to be strong in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays, which were two top-10 teams nationally last year. We have lost two great sprinters, Shenita Wilson and Kim Norsworthy, but we have also gained some very good freshmen.
“We also return hurdlers Nikkie Bouyer and Annika Kumlin, who will contribute on the 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams, which I feel will be the foundation of our sprint program this season,” said Bell.
Field Events Field events coach David Kaiser will lead the Lady Tigers through a rebuilding phase in the field events area this season. Clemson’s key losses include four-time ACC Champion and All-American Nikki Sims, who was a shot put and discus competitor. The Lady Tigers also lose two heptathletes in ACC Champion Annu Montell and All-ACC performer Aija Kortesoja. In the jumps, Clemson must fill the void in the high jump with the loss of All-ACC performer Sharia Clinkscales and top-five Clemson history performer Trevi Frazier in the triple jump and long jump.
“Obviously with the loss of those five athletes, we are in a rebuilding phase in the field events,” said Kaiser. “We do have some freshmen who we expect to step in and immediately contribute to our team, especially on the conference level.”
One of those key freshmen competitors is Jamine Moton, who was the top rated shot put and discus thrower in the state of New Jersey. Cynthia Trzcinski also joins the Clemson ranks with great strength in the shot put.
Clemson record holder Julie Polovick returns this season. Polovick set the school record in the hammer with a 146’0″ mark as a sophomore last season. The sophomore also ranks second on Clemson’s all-time performers list in the 20 lb. weight.
Thrower Ann Marie McAuley holds the number-two spot on the Clemson all-time performer rankings in the hammer throw. “I expect both Julie and Ann Marie to step up and continue to improve in those events and help us in the discus throw as well,” commented Kaiser.
In the jumps, Kaiser will look to freshman Dana Copeland to immediately contribute. “We think Dana will be a future star for Clemson in the high jump and triple jump. She is a South Carolina native who exhibits a lot of potential and athleticism.”
Jessica Hartikainen, a native of Finland, will join the Tiger ranks to make an impact in the triple jump and the long jump. Terri Robinson comes to Clemson after ranking fifth in the nation in the long jump during her senior year of high school. Kaiser also expects Simone Brown to contribute to the jumps area as she has the talent to cross over from the sprints to the long jump.
The Lady Tigers return experience in the heptathlon with the return of junior Katja Pettinen. “We look forward to Katja’s return after two injury plagued seasons. She is an All-ACC performer who plays a very important role in the field event area,” said Kaiser. “Katja will be a major impact competitor for us this season and in the future.” Pettinen is one of three Finnish athletes on the Lady Tiger squad.
With the women’s pole vault in its first year as a NCAA event, Kaiser will look to freshman Wendy Blakenship to be Clemson’s first pole vaulter. Freshman Mandy McLane, a high jumper, will also compete for the Lady Tigers in the event.
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