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Ralph White Begins First Season As The Head Coach Of The Tigers

Oct. 6, 1999

CLEMSON, S.C. – The 1999-2000 season will be a season of new beginnings for the Clemson women’s track and field programs. Ralph White, in his first season as the head coach of the Tigers’, believes Clemson’s 1999 ACC Outdoor Championship is just a stepping stone for the future.

“The best is yet to come,” said White. “We are looking into all our options to develop the program, to maximize what we can get out of this year and build a solid foundation for down the road.”

Clemson ended North Carolina’s string of seven consecutive conference outdoor crowns last season, giving the Tigers their second ACC Outdoor Championship.

Cross Country The cross country program is under the direction of a new distance coach, Luiz de Oliveira. de Oliveira has over 20 years of experience coaching track and field athletes and has served as the head coach for the Brazilian Olympic team at the last four Olympic Games. He was an assistant coach at the University of Oregon for two years and has coached Nike’s Club team, Athletic West, where he trained world-class distance runners.

“Luiz is known throughout the world,” said White. “A lot of outstanding athletes have trained with him, including Mary Decker and Joaquim Cruz, and all have improved under him.”

Three seniors will lead the cross country and distance runners this season. Beth Ahern earned All-ACC and All-Southeast Region honors last year after leading the team to a fourth-place finish at the conference meet and an eighth-place finish at the region meet. Erika van Reenen and Anne Stowell have been consistently among the Tigers’ top distance runners so far this year. Ahern and van Reenen will compete in the 5000m and 1000m during the indoor and outdoor seasons, and Stowell will run several events from the 1500m to 5000m.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of these athletes qualify as an individual for the national championships,” said White. “All of them are turning into very fine distance runners.”

Junior Shannon Schoppman returns this season after some time off. Besides competing during the cross country season, White believes she will do an outstanding job for the Tigers in the 1500m and the 3000m.

Junior Jennifer Meador and sophomore Abbey Hartman complete the returning distance runners. Meador can compete in each event from the 800m to the 3000m, and White believes Hartman is one of the most improved runners on the cross country squad.

Freshmen Diane Schillow and Stephanie Zabel will add depth to the distance group this season. Perry Fields, a transfer from Appalachian State, will redshirt this season. “Fields is a fine addition to our program,” said White. “We were fortunate to get her.”

White has seen a lot of enthusiasm from the cross country team this season. “I think we will surprise some people if we stay healthy,” he said. “We want to get Clemson cross country to where it is capable of being and where it has once been. Wayne Coffman had some outstanding teams here at Clemson.”

Sprints/Hurdles The sprints and hurdles group will be the strength of the Clemson program this season. The Tigers’ return several quality sprinters, including five-time All-American senior Shekera Weston, who won the 200m and 400m at the ACC Indoor Championships. Weston placed ninth with a time of 54.23 in the 400m at the indoor national championships and was seventh with a time of 23.23 in the 200m at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Three juniors return in the sprint events. Terri Robinson will compete in the 100m and 200m for the Tigers. She finished fifth in the 60m dash with a time of 7.61 at last year’s ACC Indoor Championships.

LaShonda Cutchin and Weston return off Clemson’s 4x100m relay team that placed seventh at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last season. Cutchin will run the 200m and 400m this season, after placing ninth in the 200m (24.02) and fifth in the 400m (55.41) at last year’s conference outdoor meet.

Freshmen Shannon Murray and Marcia Smith should have an immediate impact on the Tiger relay teams. Murray was a three-time state, region and county champion in the 100m and 200m at Columbia High. Smith won the state championship in the 400m two consecutive seasons at Stephenson High. She set the state record of 54.84 in the 400m and was a member of the 4x400m relay team that set the state record of 3:49.66.

Sprinters Cedone Mothersill, a Pan Am finalist and Michelle Burgher, two transfers from George Mason will be redshirting this season.

Sophomore Kyana Elder returns in the hurdle events after finishing fifth in the 60m hurdles and sixth in the 100m hurdles at last year’s conference meets. “Kyana is ready to step up and do the job that she is capable of doing,” said White. She will compete in the high hurdles and possibly on a Clemson relay team this season.

Nyjila Littlejohn, a transfer from George Mason, will compete in all the hurdle events this season. Littlejohn specializes in the 400m hurdles.

Field Events Jackie Hoover is in her first season coaching the Clemson field athletes. Hoover, a heptathlete from Allegheny, comes to Clemson from the College of New Jersey, where she has served as an assistant coach the last two years. “Jackie relates well to athletes because of her youth,” said White. “She doesn’t have longevity, but she does all the other little things well that are so important. Because she was a heptathlete, she has been exposed to all of the events.”

Junior Jamine Moton was a key figure in the Tigers’ ACC Outdoor Championship last season. She won the shot put with a throw of 50’3″ and the discus with a mark of 163’5″ and placed second in the hammer with a throw of 178’2″ at the conference meet. During the indoor season, Moton, who is also a member of the Clemson women’s basketball team, won the shot put (49’1″) at the ACC Championships and placed 18th at the NCAA Championships.

Senior Kammie Blount placed third with a throw of 141’9″ in the javelin competition at the ACC Outdoor Championships last season. “Kammie is going to do extremely well in the javelin again this season,” said White. “We have quality throwers, but we are hurting in quantity. This is an area we hope to revitalize.”

Robinson is the top returner in the jumps. As a sophomore last season, she finished fifth in the long jump with a mark of 19’11” at the ACC outdoor meet and was seventh with a jump of 19’0″ in the event at the conference indoor meet. Robinson finished 12th in the long jump at the 1999 NCAA Indoor Championships, jumping 19’4 “.

Sophomore Sheri Smith finished seventh in the long jump at 19’4″ and eighth in the triple jump with a mark of 39’7″ at last season’s ACC outdoor meet. Andrea Gaines, also a member of the Clemson women’s basketball team, placed ninth in the triple jump (39’1″).

“All of these athletes are training very hard,” said White. “I am looking forward to seeing what they are going to do in competition.” In the high jump, freshman Laura Nicholson of Marietta, GA, is expected to lead the team. The region MVP, Nicholson set a school record of 5’6″ in the high jump last season at Marietta.

Junior Mandy McLane only competed in the high jump at one meet last year – the ACC Outdoor Championships. At the meet, McLane placed fifth with a jump of 5’5″.

McLane is the top returning pole vaulter in the ACC. She placed second at the indoor meet with a vault of 11’6″, then placed second with a mark of 11’3″ at the outdoor meet. McLane will be joined by freshman Sarah Ellis of Florence, SC, who placed seventh in the event at the national high school meet last summer. “We are expecting big things from Ellis,” said White.

McLane is training to compete in the heptathlon, and several other Tigers are looking to compete in the multi-events.

Overall White intends to make the Clemson women’s track and field program a model program on and off the track and in the classroom. He is building for the future and preparing to get the program back to the level where it used to be.

“We’re looking forward to running against the top teams in the country,” he said. “Everyone on the team is extremely dedicated and very enthusiastic about our future.”