The track and field team looks to improve on its strong 2015 season that saw the men’s team place fifth in the NCAA Championships, while the women finished seventh.
These top-ten finishes were largely due to the 24 athletes who earned All-American honors, seventeen of whom will be returning for the 2016 season.
Among them is sophomore Adoree’ Jackson, whose long jumps secured titles at the USC-UCLA meet and the Pac-12 championships. Marquis Morris is also returning after his All-American 2015 season that saw him win the conference’s 110m HH. The men’s team has a solid throwing roster, which includes All-American Nick Ponzio as well as Matt Katnik. Ponzio set a school shot put record for freshmen, while Katnik won the California state shot put title. Conor McCullough, the 2015 NCAA champion hammer thrower, will also be returning for the Trojans after being granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.
The women’s team can count on returnees like Alexis Faulknor who not only set PRs in 100m and 200m races but also won the Pac-12 long jump title. Returning senior Tera Novy had an outstanding 2015 season, setting the USC discus throw record, placing fourth in the NCAA championships and second in the Pac-12 championships. The women’s team also boasts hurdler Dior Hall, who placed third in the 2015 NCAA Championships with a world junior record time and won the Pac-12 100m HH crown.
Among those not returning is sprinter Andre De Grasse, who accepted a pro contract after his breakout 2015 season. To help fill those shoes, USC brought in a very strong recruiting class.
On the women’s team, freshman Jasmyne Graham, the 2015 Girls Gatorade Track Athlete of the Year, will headline the hurdle events, while runner Mikaela Smith, the 2013 and 2014 California State Champion, is expected to lead the 800m run.
The men’s team includes redshirt freshman sprinter Zyaire Clemes, who placed second at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals 400m event in his senior year of high school. He also boasts a Junior Olympic title in the 400m race.
This exciting Track and Field season will kick off with indoor competitions from mid-January until mid-March, at which point the outdoor events will commence until the season’s end in late June. Though some coaches regard the indoor contests as a chance to practice, USC’s track and field director Caryl Smith Gilbert, who will be entering her third season at USC, does not adhere to that state-of-mind. She expects her athletes to perform to their fullest potential throughout the entire track and field season. This is evidenced by the two indoor MPSF championships the Women of Troy have claimed in the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
The 2016 Track and Field season kicks off Jan. 16 at the University of Washington’s Dempsey Indoor Center for the UW Indoor Preview. USC will send 22 women and 16 men to Seattle in hopes of besting their solid 2015 showing. Last season, the Trojans recorded four wins (women’s 200m and 400m races, men’s 400m, women’s triple jump), seven personal records (60m: Alexis Faulknor, Destinee Brown; 60m HH: Melia Cox; 200m: BeeJay Lee; 400m: Jaide Stepter, Ricky Morgan; 800m: Robert Ford) and one USC event record (Robert Ford’s 800m 1:52.70 beat the standing record of 1:53.9, set in 1968 by Carl Trentadue).