Several strong individual and team performances highlighted USC’s season-opening meet at the Rossi Relays in Claremont on a drizzly Saturday afternoon. The team took home seven first-place finishes.
The USC women were especially strong. Sophomore Aareon Payne and senior Shalina Clarke finished first and second, respectively, in the 100-meter dash. The women sprinters also dominated as a team, winning the 4×100, the 4×800, and the 4×1600 meter relays.
Sophomore Candace Bailey recorded a personal best in the women’s triple jump with a leap of 11.15 meters, one of only two USC women on the day to place first in an individual event.
Other notable performances from the women came in the hammer throw where Trojans Laura Chambers and Tamara Baumann finished second and third, respectively, with throws of over 50 meters each.
The USC men, expected to be one of the strongest teams in the country heading into the season, were shorthanded, declining to race some of its stronger competitors. Senior sprinter Ahmad Rashad did not run in the 100-meter dash, the race he finished second in during the NCAA Championships last year, echoing Director Ron Allice’s assertion that the Trojans “won’t run the best combinations until later in the season.”
Although the USC men did not run some of their best runners, they still showcased their depth in several strong events on Saturday. They had a one-two finish of their own, with Blake Shaw and John Carley finishing within a second of each other and taking the top two spots in the 3000-meter run. USC also took first place in the men’s 4×800-meter relay, and third in the 4×100 meter relay.
Several other strong performances highlighted USC’s day in Claremont. Senior hurdler Putchong Dispanurat took fourth in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 58.29 seconds. Sophomore Thomas Parides was right behind him with a time of 59.29, finishing sixth in the race overall.
Senior jumper Aven Wright took home second in the men’s triple jump with a leap of 15.12 meters. Wright, who last year won the triple jump at the USC-UCLA dual meet, finished around a third of a meter behind Cal State Los Angeles’s Josh Como.
Other top-six finishes for USC came from sophomore Abe Markowitz in the men’s shot put (sixth overall), redshirt junior Tyler Grady in the men’s discus throw (fourth), and junior Trey Henderson in the men’s hammer throw.
Despite the absence of several marquee competitors, USC can expect to see more top-tier athletes in next week’s Jack Rose Relays in Cerritos, the next stop on USC’s outdoor season schedule. Earlier this week, Ron Allice said that the closer USC got to the Trojan Invitational on March 20, the more he would run his best combinations and shape the team to look more like the top-ten program he envisions it will be at the end of the season.