April 5, 2000
by Heather Walker The Tiger Student Newspaper
Almost as fast as the speed of light, Clemson women’s track star LaShonda Cutchin was thrust into the position of team leader. She willingly accepted the challenge. Now the junior sprinter from Virginia Beach, VA is turning the heads of her coaches, teammates and competitors as she has suddenly, out of nowhere, become one of the driving forces of the Lady Tigers’ track and field team.
“She is turning into a heck of an athlete,” said Head Women’s Track and Field Coach, Ralph White. “She just shows a tremendous amount of leadership.”
The leadership position seems to come as naturally to Cutchin as passing competitors on the track.
“It is fun to be the team leader,” Cutchin said. “I just motivate and help the younger ones and pull them along at practice and at meets to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to.”
This time last year, Cutchin was a relatively quiet member of the team. But many of last year’s active team members were red-shirted for the current season, which has allowed Cutchin the perfect opportunity to step up and become a significant contributor to her team as both a competitor and motivator.
“She has such a strong work ethic,” said White. “It pulls everyone else on the team along and makes them work harder.”
Cutchin’s achievements on the track this year have proven that a strong work ethic and intense training can certainly be effective.
In the first meet of the indoor season last December, Cutchin wrote her name in the Clemson record books as she set a new Clemson school and track record with a time of 1:12.96 in the 500m dash. The previous record was 1:14.84.
She continued to make her mark on the Clemson track team as she was the top scorer for Clemson at the indoor Clemson Invitational in January.
In addition to these accomplishments, Cutchin also achieved an honor that she never has before–a provisional qualification for the National Championships. After placing fourth in the 400m at the ACC Championships with a time of 54.39, Cutchin became an NCAA provisional qualifier for the first time in her Clemson career.
“In previous years I had never qualified, and this is the first year I have come close,” said Cutchin. “Now I want to qualify [automatically] for Nationals.”
Should Cutchin become an automatic NCAA qualifier during the outdoor season, it would undoubtedly be very pleasing, but of little surprise, to her coach.
“She is very focused and trains hard,” White said. “Consequently, she is running fast.”
Her speed, however, hasn’t always been evident solely on the track. Cutchin was originally a member of her middle school softball team. It was her softball coach that persuaded her to give track a try.
“She said I should run track because of the way I ran the bases.”
Cutchin’s high school track coach likely considered that a home run of an idea. The Bayside High School graduate was a two-time Virginia state champion in 1995 and 1996 in both the 200m and 300m indoors. She also helped to lead the team to three consecutive indoor and outdoor Eastern Regional state championships.
Now she is leading her collegiate team as they venture into the outdoor season. The Lady Tigers will compete in the ACC Outdoor Championships in two weeks as the defending ACC Champions. Although the team is relatively depleted due to many members having red-shirted the season, Cutchin has high hopes for the team.
“I would like to see the team finish at least in the top four at the ACC Championships,” Cutchin said. “We can do that.”
Such confidence is a valuable quality for both an athlete and a team leader, and this year Cutchin has proven to herself and to her team that she can excel at either position.
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