For Clemson Director of Track & Field Lawrence Johnson, the early meets of the indoor season are informative from a couple of different standpoints.
On one hand, he gets a chance to evaluate the newcomers to the program in a competitive context, and on the other he gets a good sense of the fitness and technical development of his returning athletes.
“You get to see the new kids get out and compete for the first time,” said Johnson. “Of course, they’re nervous for their first college meet, so it gives us a great opportunity to see them in some competition. As coaches we get to evaluate them and see some of the things that we need to work on, moving forward.
“Then for some of the returnees it’s kind of a good indicator of where they are in terms of their fitness and their sharpness. We film everything and we get to see where they are technically, and what they need to be working on to improve for the new season. So, overall, the first meets always serve to give us some great assessments.”
Individually, and on the women’s side, junior Whitney Fountain has already turned in an award-worthy performance in the pentathlon, while, for the men, redshirt senior hurdler Spencer Adams has been the early standout.
For her personal best performance in the pentathlon in the season-opening Orange and Purple Winter Classic, Fountain earned recognition as the ACC Women’s Indoor Track & Field Performer-of-the-Week. Adams, meanwhile, has shown promise of his continued technical evolution as a top-flight hurdler.
“Whitney Fountain did exceptionally well in the pentathlon,” said Johnson. “Especially for being where we are in the season, she’s learned so much. She’s so much stronger and faster, and more technically sound than she was at the same point last year. It was really exciting to see her go out there and set a new personal best.
“And it was good to see Keni Harrison step up and have a personal best in the high-hurdles, and then come back and run a personal best in the 300, and then be a part of the win in the 4X400 relay. She really did well.
“On the men’s side, we’ve been working on some different things technically with Spencer and it was really fantastic that he was able to show some of the things that we’ve been working on. Also, for the men, (sprinter) La’ Mont Jackson spent a lot of time hurt last year, and it was really good to see him back on the track and setting a personal best, and, I think, a school record in the 300.”
As far as goals and objectives for the indoor season, Johnson would like to see his men’s side reach a higher rung on the conference ladder.
“I think for the men’s program we’re looking to continue to make that climb toward the upper echelon of the ACC,” he said. “We’ve been hanging around fourth or fifth for the last couple of years, and recruiting-wise we’ve been working on a lot of depth, and I think that we’re getting closer to having the sort of depth that we’re going to need to challenge for titles.
“But I’d really like to see us stick our nose in there and see if we can really challenge for an ACC title. I think we have a nice group of accomplished athletes on our men’s side, and that we’ve got a good group of young athletes who are going to help bring some depth to the table, as well. Overall, we’d like to try to become a top-twenty team in the country on the men’s side.
“That’s definitely a goal that we’ve set for the men’s group, and I like the way they’ve come together. They really jelled in the off-season and in the preseason, and, hopefully, if they can kind of stick to those things, it’s a great sign of things to come.”
On the women’s side, the goal is to maintain league superiority and an uninterrupted string of indoor and outdoor championships.
“With the women, we want to continue to be the leading program in the league,” said Johnson. “Because we’ve had some success over the last few years, people build their teams now to try to be able to beat our team. They strategize against us, and that’s what smart coaches do.
“But our women are training hard and are keeping their eye on the prize. So, hopefully, indoor-wise we can retain the ACC Championship, and nationally be a top-three, top-two, or maybe even a National Championship team. Those are certainly some of the goals we’ve set forth for the program, and we’ll try to get there.”