By Philip Sikes // Athletic Communications
CLEMSON, S.C. — If you’re a track & field enthusiast, this time of year should be circled on your calendar.
Clemson coach Mark Elliott fits that profile, and he’s anxious to get his Tigers started on a stretch that will give he and his staff an idea of just how good his men and women can be in 2015.
“I’ve been talking about New York (and the Armory Invitational this weekend) for a while, and when you include upcoming meets at Texas A&M and Tyson (Invitational) in Arkansas, we’ll know for sure what’s going on once we get in those rings,” he said.
Elliott has eased his groups in with a pair of home meets, sandwiched with a trip to Blacksburg for the Virginia Tech Invitational. But starting Friday, there’s no turning back for the Tigers as they ready to compete against the nation’s best.
His women are nationally ranked for the first time in his tenure, carrying a No. 25 ranking into New York. The team’s newfound depth has shown itself early, particularly in the revamped sprints and hurdles. Myasia Jacobs and Samantha Elliott — both transfers into the program — rank among the nation’s top 20 in the 60 dash and 60 hurdles, respectively.
The jumps unit features an embarrassment of riches, even without Whitney Fountain as she awaits her final outdoor season at Clemson. Iana Amsterdam, Mimi Land and Anasterasia Terrell finished 1-2-3 in the triple jump last weekend, with impressive marks.
“Having three girls over 40 feet and two right at 42 is very good,” he said. “Nationally, that’s a pretty strong group and it shows.”
Elliott also believes his mid-distance and mile relay have something special, thanks in large part to Bowerman candidate Natoya Goule. The Jamaica native has yet to run her signature event — the 800 meters — as a Clemson Tiger, but will do so this weekend. Goule was invited to run in Saturday’s invitational section at 5:25 p.m. against an elite field of professionals.
“The competition in New York should push us to better times, and that includes our relay,” Elliott said. Goule has anchored Clemson’s top relay times so far this season.
On the men’s side, Tevin Hester has been in peak early-season form. The junior has posted two wins in the 60, and one in the 200 with an indoor best. He owns a pair of ACC Track Athlete of the Week honors already in 2015.
The Tigers have ushered in a young group in the 400 and 800 — transfers Michael Cheeks and Cameron Thornton, and freshmen Jorel Bellafonte, Jeffrey Green and Cordell Lamb. Most have been competing in their non-primary events, but according to Elliott, have done well early this season.
“While some of the competition maybe wasn’t at the level we’ll see these next few weeks, I’ve been happy overall with them because the performances have been at a high level,” he said.
The Armory Track Invitational gets started Friday at 10:30 a.m. Live results will be posted at AmoryTrack.com. NBC Sports Network will provide television coverage on Saturday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
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