Track & Field Adds 11 to 2017 Roster
CHARLESTON, S.C. – The College of Charleston track & field program completed a busy offseason, adding 11 newcomers to the 2017 squad.
Among others, the Cougars lost Kornelia Kostka to graduation over the summer, and the College addressed this vacancy by adding a pair of runners with Midwest ties to take her place. Lowcountry native Mads Nelson comes to the College as a transfer from Nebraska-Omaha, where she ran cross country. Originally from Wando High School, she garnered a medley of accolades ranging from first team academic all-conference, a 4x800m county championship, and first team all-state in both indoor and outdoor track.
Joining her on the Cougars is Lauren Roberts, a freshman out of Deer Creek High School in Oklahoma City. Roberts accrued All-State honors as a freshman and sophomore, and set her school records in the 4x800m, the mile and the two-mile. Also a force in the classroom, Roberts graduated with an eye-popping 4.33 GPA.
“Lauren is actually the first athlete from Oklahoma we’ve ever had, so that’s pretty exciting," head coach Amy Seago said. "She’s suffering an injury that she sustained right when she came in, but she’ll bounce back soon and I think she’ll be a good contributor for us. Mads has been dealing with a bit of a back injury that we’re trying to work through. Long term though, I think she’s got what it takes to make an impact for us.”
The Cougars fielded a lot of depth in the javelin throw in 2016, but lost quality performers Ciera Holston and Mackenzie Maples in the summer. They added Asia Johnson back in the Fall, and since then picked up some depth in the heavy throws and the discus. Simone Harris comes to the College from J.L. Mann High School in Greenville, and will specialize in the hammer throw, discus and shot put. She helped lead the Patriots to three straight state championships, and won an individual state championship in the discus throw as a senior.
Lydia Bussey, a freshman out of Abingdon, Va., will also be in the mix for the Cougars. Bussey picked up a discus conference championship as a junior, and was twice named an All-State honoree. Harris comes in with PRs of 146’3” (discus) and 41’3” (shot put) while Bussey’s personal bests stand at 124’4” and 34’7”.
“Ever since we lost Tiffany Sisk a couple years ago, we’ve been looking to rebound in the throws, and I think these two are certainly going to help a lot,” Seago said. “Simone has an incredible upside when you look at what she did in high school and what we’ve seen already. Lydia’s a great worker in her own right who’s can definitely contribute for us. We like what we’ve seen from a technical standpoint, and she’s just the kind of person that we want in our program.”
The Cougars lost a holder of multiple jump records when RoShani Glover graduated in the summer, and their first move was to add Leona Burton-Rojas during the Fall of 2015. Since then, they added another horizontal jumper in the form of Breanna Tatum, who comes from J.L. Mann along with Harris. Like Roberts, Tatum excelled greatly in the classroom with a 4.3 GPA, and out on the field, pulled off an All-State honors in the 4x400m. She holds PRs of 36’10” in the triple jump an 16’9” in the long jump.
“I only hear good things about Breanna,” Seago said. “She’s a strong worker who’ll keep developing, and she’s going to provide depth to that group for us.”
Both Rachel Leder and Alexia Neal graduated in the summer, leaving the Cougars with no returning 100m hurdlers whatsoever outside of heptathletes. Thus, CofC went hard after the hurdlers in their recruiting period, adding four in the offseason. Holly Driver represents the one out of state addition to the hurdles department, coming from John Carroll High School in Bel Air, Md. She won the 100m hurdle championships as a junior and was runner up as a senior. Her personal best in the event is 15.2 seconds, and what’s more, Driver has good speed in the sprints with a 400m PR of 59.9 seconds.
Ninety Six High School’s Brittany Gilliam was around the team during the 2016 season, and will make her debut in 2017. Kayla Ennis joins the fray as well, coming from Pelion High School with an absolutely ridiculous GPA of 4.8. Ennis comes to the Lowcountry as a very decorated high school athlete, boasting 10 All-Conference nods, four region championships in both hurdle races, and a 2016 Region 3AA Player of the Year award. Local product Emma DuPree of James Island Charter rounds out the group, carrying a 400m hurdle PR of 1:05.6 with her. DuPree boasts All-State recognition, a pair of 4x800m championships, and a 4.1 GPA.
“Brittany trained with us in the Spring, and she showed us right away that she’s got a great attitude and will bring it every day,” Seago said. “We definitely have talent with the rest of the group as well. Kayla is somebody who I think will blossom with college-level training. Emma’s from the area, and she’s well-known around the community who’s a great addition for our program. And then there’s Holly, who has a lot of versatility in the hurdle events. I think in a hurdle-specific program, once she gets her timing down, she’ll flourish in the 100m, and that will translate to the 400m.”
Of all the groups in Coach Seago’s squad, the sprints department was one of the least-affected by off-season graduation. With that in mind, the Cougars only made one pickup in their recruitment efforts, adding Maya Pringle out of Dutch Fork High School in Irmo, S.C. Pringle is a short distance and relay specialist, having picked up four straight All-State selections in the 4x100m relay.
“Maya is somebody who’s a 100m and 200m runner that’ll add depth to our sprint group,” Seago said. “With continued hard work, I think she can help our relays as well.”
The trifecta of Julia Petruch, Jenny Martin and Sarah Lynch all scored for the Cougars at the CAA Championships, and all three make their return this season. Nonetheless, the program adds to its embarrassment of riches by bringing in Ellie Vest out of Virginia Beach. While at Norfolk Academy, Vest helped lead to a state championship in 2015, as well as four conference championships. She comes with a strong pedigree, having won a combined 11 MVP awards while qualifying for nationals in both the sprint medley relay and high jump. She holds several school records, including her heptathlon PR of 4269.
“Ellie is very accomplished all across the board with a lot of strengths all over the multis,” Seago said. “The 800m is a particular strength of hers, and she’s picked up javelin very quickly. She has a huge upside.”