September 26, 1998
Over the last ten years the Clemson men’s track and field program, under the direction of Head Coach Bob Pollock, has won 14 ACC championships. The Tigers have won the ACC indoor and outdoor track championship each of the past two seasons. Clemson finished third at the 1998 NCAA Indoor Track Championship and tied for 11th-place at the 1998 NCAA Outdoor Championship.
Coach Pollock admits that this is a brand new year, but the team is ready to defend the ACC titles and become stronger contenders on the national level, as well. “We must progress our people to the next level,” he says. “We have a solid nucleus and have brought in a good recruiting class that should help us continue our success.”
Clemson has established itself as a strong track and field power. Now Pollock wants the distance team to rise to that level as well. “Our team has a strong distance background,” he says. “We have a mixed group of seasoned seniors, developing upperclassmen and new freshman that will make up this season’s team.”
Senior Joe Gibson was named All-ACC and all-region last season. An All-American at Brevard before transferring to Clemson, Gibson is developing as an All-America candidate for the Tigers. He has the determination and the drive to make it to the NCAA championships, according to Pollock.
Senior Esteban Diaz also garnered all-region honors last season. He is much stronger this year, and has the knowledge and expertise to help lead the team. “These two are our penetrators,” says Pollock, “a sort of 1-2 punch for our cross country team.”
Another senior, Matt Tooman, provides great leadership for the team. “Tooman is very supportive of our younger people, and is consistently among our top five runners,” said Pollock. “He will be a tremendous force for us this year.”
Rounding out the top six runners for the Tigers will be juniors Steve Alexander and Jason Putnam and B.J. Dillard, who redshirted last season.
Two freshmen who will be looking to break into Clemson’s top eight runners are Jason Meany, the New York state high school 3,200-meter champion last season, and Ryan Demers, the Maine state 3,200-meter runner-up. “Both have good credentials,” said Pollock. “They have made a very good adjustment into our training program.” Redshirt freshmen David Abel and Clay Wiggins and true freshmen Everett Ernest and Mike Connelly will be the next to break into Clemson’s top eight runners.
“The ACC Championship should again be really competitive,” said Pollock. Last season the Tigers placed third, just two points out of second place at the ACC Championship, before finishing fifth at the NCAA Region III Championships. Pollock expects the team to challenge even more at the NCAA Regionals this year.
“We have two excellent front runners, along with a solid nucleus of other good runners,” Pollock explains. “We’re looking to cut the time span between our number one and five runners by running together in a pack. The good strength background of this team should be a plus at the end of the season.”
In other distance events for Clemson, Gibson returns as the top long distance individual after winning the ACC indoor championship in the 3,000-meters and placing third in the 5,000-meters. Senior Jason Reckner returns for his final season as the Tigers’ top 3,000-meter steeplechaser.
Senior Davidson Gill will lead the team in the middle distance events. Gill placed second at the ACC indoor and outdoor championships in the 800-meters and was a member of the All-American 4×400-meter relay team that place third at the NCAA indoor championships. Senior Esteban Diaz returns as Clemson’s top 1,500-meter athlete. He placed third in the 800-meters at the ACC indoor championships and sixth in the 1,500-meters at the outdoor championships. He will also compete on Clemson’s distance medley relay team.
Senior Matt Tooman finished seventh in the mile at the ACC indoor championships and ran on the Clemson indoor distance medley relay team. Senior Jason Reckner will compete in the 1500-meter and 3000-meter steeplechase, after placing sixth in the steeplechase at the ACC outdoor championships.
Junior Shawn Murphy ran on the 4×400-meter relay team that placed third at the ACC outdoor championships. Pollock believes Murphy has learned a great deal and should add to the 800-meter middle distance event this season.
Freshmen Ryan Demers and Mike Connelly will also compete in the middle distance events. Connelly, the Virginia high school state champion in the 800-meter with a time of 1:52, can also compete in the mile and will be able to add to the Tiger team in the distance medley.
The loss of Carlton Chambers to graduation will leave a hole to fill in the Clemson sprint group. Chambers, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist, helped develop Clemson into a national track power. Junior Shawn Crawford is ready to continue Clemson’s national success. He became Clemson’s youngest national champion after winning the 200-meter indoor national championship in 20.69. The only ACC champion in three events, he won the 100- and 200-meters and was a member of the winning 4×100-meter relay team at last season’s championships. Crawford finished eighth nationally in the 100-meter dash, third in the 200-meters and fifth as a part of the 4×100-meter relay that recorded a time of 39.07, becoming a four-time All-American.
Senior Kenny Franklin returns after placing third at the ACC outdoor championships in the 200-meters. He and junior Charles Allen earned All-American honors as a part of the 4×100-meter relay team that won the league championship with a time of 39.65. Two freshman will complete Clemson’s sprint group this season. Anthony Moorman was named a high school All-American in the 100- and 200-meters. Ato Modibo, another high school All-American, holds the Maryland state high school record in the 400-meters and will also compete in the 200-meters. He was the National High School Scholastic Champion in both the 200- and 400-meters.
Clemson lost three outstanding All-Americans in the hurdle group. Jermichael Williams was the runner up in the 55-meter dash at the NCAA indoor championships. Greg Hines placed seventh in the 110-meter high hurdles and fifth in the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA outdoor championships. He was seventh nationally in the 55-meter high hurdles at the indoor championships. Aaron Haynes placed seventh nationally in the 400-meter hurdles at the outdoor championships. “These three Tigers did a great job for our program,” says Pollock. “They set the tone for the present class to continue the national tradition.”
Sophomores Sultan Tucker and Tony Washington are expected to complete the hurdle team this season. Tucker finished third at the ACC indoor championships in the 60-meter hurdles and eighth outdoors in the 110-meter high hurdles. He will again compete on the shuttle hurdle relay team. Washington has great strength and speed and is ready for the next step, according to Pollock.
Freshman Todd Matthews, the Junior National Champion in the 110-meter high hurdles, placed sixth at the world championships and already has experience running against collegiate-level competition. Mark Jellison, another freshman will also compete in the hurdles for the Tigers.
The Tigers return several veterans in the jump events. Sophomore Tony Lloyd won the triple jump at the ACC indoor championships. His jump of 50′ 9 1/2″ ranks third on Clemson’s all-time list. Lloyd also placed third in the high jump competition at the ACC outdoor championships. Junior Bryan Williams finished third at the ACC indoor (49-8.25) and outdoor (48-10.25) competitions in the triple jump. He also scored in the high jump competition last season and will provide quality depth in the long jump this year.
Senior Kenny Franklin provides versatility, depth and strength to the jump events. He placed sixth in the triple jump at the ACC indoor competition and fifth in the long jump at the outdoor competition. Freshmen Kai Maull, Mark Jellison and Todd Matthews will strengthen the Tigers in the long jump. Maull won the Penn Relays long jump championship last season, jumping 24-11, while Jellison and Matthews have recorded jumps of 24-0.
Senior Jorge Tienda tied for second place in the pole vault competition at the ACC indoor championships with sophomore Ben Hess. Tienda finished fifth in the pole vault at the outdoor competition. He finished sixth in the triple jump at the league outdoor championship. Hess completed his freshman season with a third-place finish in the pole vault at the ACC outdoor championships. Sophomores Bobby Latham and Wade Van Sice will also compete in the pole vault. Also adding depth to the jumps this season will be Todd Dunn and Adam Edgington, who redshirted last season.
The ACC outdoor high jump champion returns for Clemson. Senior Jason Brewer won the competition last season with a jump of 6-11.75. Freshman Mark Mirabito, runner-up at the National Indoor Scholastic Championships, and Doug Ameigh (6′ 10″) will add depth in the high jump along with Jellison.
Clemson graduated the ACC javelin champion, Damian DiCola; however, the Tigers return Tom Hopkins, who placed third at the ACC outdoor championships. Sophomore Wade Van Sice also returns after placing seventh a year ago. Freshman Tory Smith, the Pennsylvania state runner-up with a throw of 211′ 2″, will add to the Tiger attack. Senior Tom Hopkins returns in the shot put and 35 lb. weight competition. Added to Hopkins on the throwing squad are three outstanding freshmen. Keith Rzewuski, a high school All-American, Brett Varner and Jason Moss, all good size athletes, each had successful high school careers in the throw events and hope to provide Clemson with needed depth in the throws.
The Tigers look to sophomores Wade Van Sice and Rob Rauch, who contributed to the Tigers’ success in the decathlon and pentathlon last season. Freshman Mark Jellison, the pentathlon runner-up at the National Scholastic Indoor Championship, along with Gary Nichols will add strenth and depth in the decathlon.
The team’s attitude and good work ethic makes Pollock confident that the team will obtain its goals for the upcoming year. “We have two excellent assistant coaches in Ralph White and Aaron James,” he says. “They are helping to develop great athletes and great relationships with the athletes. This season’s team wants to surpass what previous teams have done.”
The 1998-99 year should prove to be an exciting one for the fans. The Tigers will run a nationally televised meet on Clemson’s new track, which is scheduled to be completed in December. Clemson is also set to host the 1999 ACC outdoor championship. “We will have the opportunity to compete against some of the best teams in the nation,” says Pollock.
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