NCAA Recruiting

South Carolina's Track Programs Have Shown Great Strides Under Tim Hall

South Carolina's Track Programs Have Shown Great Strides Under Tim Hall

In just his first year, Tim Hall is shaping South Carolina into a winner. This week, the product of that work will pay off at NCAAs.

Jun 5, 2024 by Cory Mull
South Carolina's Track Programs Have Shown Great Strides Under Tim Hall

When Tim Hall took over as the University of South Carolina’s head track coach last summer, he knew he was entering a challenging situation. 

The Gamecocks’ men’s and women’s teams had finished 12th of 13 teams at the 2023 Southeastern Conference Championships. And with the SEC adding the University of Texas in 2024, it will make an already loaded league even better.

Still, Hall eagerly accepted the job. 

He was friends with former South Carolina coach Curtis Frye and was a longtime assistant at Tennessee and Kentucky, so he was familiar with the Gamecocks and the SEC and thought they could compete at a higher level.

Truth be told, South Carolina has improved in Hall’s first year at the helm, with the men’s and women’s teams each finishing 10th at last month’s SEC outdoor meet. The future looks bright, too, as several freshmen have performed well, especially on the women’s side.

At the NCAA Outdoor Championships this week in Eugene, Oregon, the Gamecocks will have five freshmen women competing in individual events: JaMeesia Ford (200m), Cynteria James (200m), Zaya Akins (400m), Judy Kosgei (1,500m) and Teresa Cherotich (3,000m steeplechase). 

Ford, James and Akins will be competing in the 4x100m relay, while Ford and Akins will be on the 4x400m relay team. The women’s preliminaries are on Thursday and the finals are on Saturday.

On the men’s side, Nyckoles Harbor, a 6-foot-5, 242 pound freshman who starred at Archbishop Carroll (DC) High School last year, will compete in the 100m and 200m at the NCAA preliminaries on Wednesday. He is one of only three true freshmen from the U.S. who qualified in two individual events. Harbor is also a wide receiver on the South Carolina football team.

James and Akins had originally signed with Kentucky, where Hall was the associate head coach from 2018 until 2023. But when Hall accepted the South Carolina job, James and Akins followed him to the school, which was a recruiting coup.

As a senior last year at Miami Southridge (FL) High School, James finished third in the 100m (11.55), placed second in the 200m (23.69) and won the 400m (52.52) at the Florida Class 4A outdoor meet. 

She was also seventh in the 200m (23.62) at the USATF U20 Championships.

Akins, meanwhile, won the 100m, 200m and 400m at the Missouri state meet as a sophomore, junior and senior at Raytown South (SC) High School. She also won the 400m at Nike Indoor Nationals and New Balance Nationals Outdoor in 2022 and the added another title at New Balance Nationals Indoor in 2023.

Ford, South Carolina’s other top girls sprints recruit in the Class of 2023, signed with the Gamecocks in November 2022 and stuck with her choice when Hall came aboard. As a senior at Jack Britt (NC) High School last year, Ford had the U.S. No. 2 time in the 400m (51.77) and the U.S. No. 9 time in the 200m (23.06).

This year, Ford has continued to improve and become one of the best young track stars in the world.

At the Clemson Tiger Paw Invitational in February, she won the 200m in 22.36, setting a U20 world indoor record in the event. 

Two weeks later, she ran the same time in winning the 200m at the SEC indoor meet. Then, at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March, she won the 200m, lowering her U20 record to 22.34. She also anchored South Carolina’s winning 4x400m relay team that also included Akins and juniors Jahnile Registre and Jayla Jamison.

During this outdoor season, Ford set a personal-best in finishing second in the 200m (22.11) at the SEC Championships last month, which is the second-fastest mark in the NCAAs this year behind Ole Miss senior McKenzie Long. 

Ford was also among the nation’s best in the 100m (11.13) and 400m (50.81), but she did not compete in those races at the recent NCAA East first round meet, where she focused on the 200m and the two relays.

While South Carolina has excelled signing top recruits from the U.S. such as Akins, Ford and James, the Gamecocks also have two talented international runners in Kosgei and Cherotich, both of whom are from Kenya.

During the cross country season, Kosgei finished 19th at the NCAA Championships, the highest finish in program history. She was fifth in the 1,500m (4:08.69) at the NCAA East First Round last month to advance to the NCAA meet. She has bests this year of 2:01.66 in the 800m, 4:34.21 in the mile, 9:10.76 in the 3,000 and 16:12.64 in the 5,000m.

Cherotich joined the South Carolina team during the indoor season. She was ninth in the 5,000m at SECs (16:10.29) and was fourth in the 3,000m steeplechase (10:06.63) and 11th in the 5,000m (16:13.55). 

She then placed 10th in the 3,000m steeplechase (personal-best 9:59.61) at the NCAA East First Round meet, clinching a spot in the NCAAs and joining her fellow freshmen who will look to score points for a young, promising South Carolina program.

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