September 25, 1998
CLEMSON, S.C. – The Clemson women’s track team has one goal in mind for the 1998-99 season — winning an ACC Championship. At both the ACC indoor and outdoor championship meets last season, Clemson finished second with the closest margin in six years.
According to head coach Ron Garner, the team’s success depends upon the right attitude. “Every athlete on this team understands that team unity is the most important factor,” he says. Despite the loss of three key seniors in Samantha Watt, Simone Tomlinson and Megan Hartman, Garner is confident the team will be successful. “Each returning athlete had a new personal record in either our indoor or outdoor season last year,” he said.
The cross country and distance runners are under the direction of a new coach, Rodney Rothoff. Rothoff earned success as the head cross country coach at Arkansas Little Rock for eight years. During his tenure he coached five All-Americans and 51 Sun Belt Conference Champions. “With his increased energy and enthusiasm, Rodney can excite this team and direct them where we need to go,” said Garner.
The coaching staff is confident that the cross country team can reach the same level of success the indoor and outdoor teams have had. “The team as a whole is ready for the next level,” said Rothoff. “The nucleus is committed to the philosophy of our program, to grow and develop.” Junior Beth Ahern has the strength and mental toughness to lead the team this season. In Clemson’s first meet of the season, Ahern won the Western Carolina Invitational with a time of 18:01. Last season she placed fourth indoors and fifth outdoors in the 3,000-meters at the ACC championships. In the 5,000-meters at the outdoor championships, she placed third with a time of 17:33.49. She also set new personal records in the 1,500- and 3,000-meters during the outdoor season. Senior Julianne Littmann and junior Shannon Schoppman are also among Clemson’s top distance runners. Littmann placed fifth in the mile run at the ACC indoor championships and fifth in the 800-meters at the ACC outdoor championships, while Schoppman finished fourth in the mile run at the ACC Indoor championship and fifth in the 1,500-meters at the ACC outdoor championships.
Rothoff believes Ahern, Schoppman and Littmann can qualify provisionally for the NCAA championships this season. He expects team leadership from graduate student Brantley Epps, who placed fifth at the ACC indoor championships in the 800-meters. She and Schoppman ran on the distance medley relay team that finished second at the ACC indoor championships.
Sophomore Jennifer Meador was one of the most consistent cross country runners a year ago. Meador finished eighth in the mile run at the ACC indoor meet, giving the Tigers three athletes in the mile finals for the first time in Clemson’s history.
Completing the distance runners is junior Erica Van Reenan, who stepped up her performance at the indoor championship, then placed sixth in the 10,000 meters at the ACC outdoor championship. In the distance relay events, the Tigers return Littmann, Epps and Schoppman off Clemson’s record-setting 4×1500-meter relay team that posted the seventh fastest collegiate time last season. The 4×800-meter relay team of Meador, Schoppman, Littmann and Epps returns after setting the school record last season with a time of 9:04.69, but is capable of running much faster, according to Garner.
On the national level, the ACC and the Big Ten are the best cross country conferences. “We have the opportunity to compete in a very competitive conference,” says Garner. N.C. State, North Carolina and Wake Forest entered the season among the nation’s top 25 teams. The Tigers’ goal for cross country season is to finish among the ACC’s top four teams at the conference meet, establishing Clemson’s place among the league’s elite teams.
Clemson’s sprinters are also under the direction of a new coach this season, Celena Mondie-Milner. An 18-time All-American at Illinois, Mondie-Milner won a gold medal at the 1995 World Championship as a member of the 4×100-meter relay team. She will lead a fierce group of competitors that she believes understand what the “roar of the Tiger” is about. “Our athletes understand our goals of developing ACC and NCAA champions and have adapted well to the coaching changes,” she said. “The team’s versatility will be an important factor in our success this season.” The sprint group lost one senior from last season, Simone Tomlinson, the ACC outdoor champion in the 100-meters and the indoor champion in the 60-meter dash; however, the team returns five all-ACC performers in senior Nikkie Bouyer, junior Shekera Weston and sophomores LaShonda Cutchin, Simone Brown and Terri Robinson. Bouyer was a two-time All-American last season after placing sixth nationally indoors in the 55m-hurdles indoors and running on the 4×400-meter relay team that also finished sixth indoors. Her leadership and versatility will be important to the Tigers this season. Bouyer finished second in both the 200-meters and the 60-meter hurdles at the ACC indoor championship. Outdoors, she was the ACC champion in the 200-meter dash and placed third in the 100-meter hurdles. Her 200-meter time of 23.51 is the second-fastest time in Clemson history. Bouyer also holds Tiger hurdle records in the indoor 60-meters (8.20) and outdoor 100-meters (13.21).
Weston also gained experience on national level last season. She was a member of the 4×400-meter relay team that finished sixth at the NCAA indoor championships, garnering All-American honors. Weston placed second in the 400-meters and third in the 200-meters at the ACC indoor championships.
Cutchin also gained All-American status as a part of the 4×400-meter relay team that won the ACC championship then finished sixth at the indoor national championship. At the ACC outdoor championship, she placed fifth in the 200-meters and third in the 400-meters. She is expected to do well again this season in both the 200- and 400-meters and will run on the 4×400-meter relay team.
Brown finished eighth in the 200-meters at the league indoor championships and was seventh in the 100-meters at the league outdoor championships, while Robinson placed second in the 60-meter dash indoors and fourth in the 100-meters outdoors. Robinson is a prominent national-class jumper who will also contribute to the 4×100-meter relay this season.
Two freshmen will complete the sprint and hurdles group. Kyana Elder, the Georgia state champion and record holder in several hurdle events, will compete in the 100-meter hurdles. Melissa Manning, the Pennsylvania state champion in the 400-meter hurles, will complete the hurdle team.
Mondie-Milner sees natural talent on the team. Several athletes are just as talented as other national champions she has worked with, but she wants the athletes to realize their talent. “These athletes have developed national experience, and they want to be back at that level,” said Mondie-Milner. “I have been very impressed with their attitude toward competition. There is a lot of support among team members, and the athletes are not afraid to take control of another event in order to help the team succeed.”
Garner believe’s Mondie-Milner’s success on the college and national level will make an impact on this year’s team. “The team wants to learn from her,” he said. “Celena is a role model for the athletes on this team. We want to build intelligent competitors and take advantage of opportunities.”
The field events played a significant role in Clemson’s 1998 success. The group was consistent throughout the season and tied the sprint and hurdles group for the highest number of points at the ACC outdoor championship. “From January to April we only made technical changes in the group,” said Garner, who coaches the field athletes. “The team performed to its capabilities and competed hard at the ACC meet, which is the premier meet for our field athletes.” Sophomore Jamine Moton returns as the ACC defending outdoor shot put after throwing 50′ 1 3/4″ at last year’s meet. She holds the Clemson all-time record in the discus at 162′ 9″. Moton provisionally qualified for the NCAAs during both the indoor and outdoor seasons last year. Junior Kammie Blount returns as the ACC javelin champion. She improved significantly in 1998.
Two seniors return in the hammer competition. Ann McAuley placed fourth in the hammer at the ACC outdoor meet last year. She holds the Clemson record with a throw of 156′ 0″. Julie Polovick placed seventh in the hammer and eighth in the weight throw at the ACC indoor meet last season. She finished seventh in the javelin at the outdoor meet. Polovick ranks second, behind McAuley, on all-time list with a throw of 150′. Sophomore Mandy McLane was an all-ACC pole vaulter last season, placing second outdoors and eighth indoors at the league championship meets. Freshman Erin Nett will also compete in the pole vault. Net placed third indoors and sixth outdoors at the high school national championship meets last year. She has already jumped higher than the ACC record of 11′ 2″ in the pole vault competition.
Sophomore Terri Robinson will utilize her national level speed in the long jump again this season. She placed fourth indoors and sixth outdoors at the ACC meets last year. Sophomore Simone Brown will also compete in the long jump this season.
“The new coaching staff has brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the team,” said Garner. The coaches combined have been a part of 24 conference championships at various schools and have worked with many national champions.
Garner believes Clemson will establish itself during the 1999 season as a championship program. “I think this team has learned a lot,” said Garner. “The entire team knows what it takes to make champions. Everyone wants to contribute and everyone wants to win. We will compete with the best, so we will have to develop ourselves into national level performers.”
“The men’s team has established the method of how to win, taking 14 out of 30 championships in the last 10 years,” he explains. “Now we must parallel and compliment each other, then we should enjoy the same success the men’s program has had.”
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